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RDN CEO addresses Local Government NSW Rural and Regional Summit

20th February 2023

A message to the Local Government NSW Rural and Regional Summit

On behalf of RDN, thank you for the opportunity to continue our working relationship with the remote, rural and regional local councils of NSW. In 2023, RDN celebrates its 35th anniversary, and we recognise that the relationships and cooperation between councils, medical and other health professionals and providers, and RDN has been instrumental in the continuation and sustainability of NSW's rural health and social care services throughout that time.

I trust the following update and briefing info are of use. We welcome the chance for further discussion with each council. Please feel free to email me at ceo@nswrdn.com.au or call (02) 4924 8000.

Thank you again for your continuing efforts to support rural health and your dedication to your communities.

Best wishes,
Richard Colbran PhD

About RDN

NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) is an independent charity working to support remote, rural and regional communities, and communities that face service access inequity.

RDN is not a representative body for doctors. Rather, it was established by medical professionals who believe in the need for 'community to be at the centre' of all health service design and decision making.

This 'doctors for community' philosophy has driven RDN's advocacy for access to quality and sustained health services tailored to individual community needs.

RDN's 2022-25 Strategic Plan specifically calls out the increasing need to support and enable locally orientated and community-driven health and social care system solutions.

The organisation has committed to adapt and extend its service offerings to local councils and communities to ensure a range of service models and workforce programs are in place to support local councils. We look forward to further collaboration in coming years.

Useful resources 

At a high level, the following might be useful for local councils as they consider forward plans and messaging relating to local health services. 

RDN's 2022 Rural NSW Health Service and Workforce Needs Assessment

Annually RDN produces a 'state of play' intel report for the sector, synthesising and analysing factors influencing access to care for remote, rural and regional NSW communities. The 2022 Report is publicly available.

  • RDN welcomes the opportunity to present this intel and further insights to local councils and community groups. Please get in touch with RDN if this is of interest.

NSW Rural Health Parliamentary Inquiry

In 2022 the findings of the 'Health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote New South Wales' Parliamentary inquiry were released.

RDN undertook a review of the inquiry's submissions and findings (along with the Federal senate inquiry into rural and remote general practice) to assess critical factors identified to enhance remote and rural health. Twelve key themes were identified:

  1. Access - limited access/or slow access to health services
  2. Increase the rural workforce
  3. Virtual/telehealth –as a retention tool, not just a service tool
  4. Training and development / supervision
  5. Models of care, workforce or funding
  6. Improve service provision to Aboriginal people
  7. Improve recruitment and retention
  8. Improve quality of care
  9. Partnership / collaboration
  10. Funding/resources
  11. Increase mental health services
  12. Attend to poorer health outcomes

NSW Regional Health Ministerial Advisory Group (RHMAP)

An outcome of the NSW inquiry was the establishment of the Regional Health Ministerial Advisory Panel (RHMAP). RHMAP advises the Minister for Regional Health, the Minister for Health and the Secretary for NSW Health on opportunities and solutions to improve healthcare, hospital and support services in regional NSW.

Details regarding the Panel are publicly available. I was appointed as Chair and Councillor Rick Firman OAM and Councillor Ken Keith OAM have also been appointed to the Panel.

The Panel has identified six key themes to frame its considerations:

  1. Legislation, regulation and policy for rural communities and effective community outcomes
  2. Regional and rural health stakeholders are respected, heard and responded to
  3. Whole of health and social care integration, effectiveness and efficiency
  4. Commitment to equitable service access as a fundamental human right
  5. NSW 'The Place of Choice' for an appropriately resourced multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, fit-for-purpose and highly engaged health workforce
  6. High-performing and sustained health and care system enabling a thriving rural NSW

Rural immersion – a key rural health workforce attraction and recruitment factor

NSW local councils and RDN have 20+ year partnerships in delivering the Bush Bursary and Country Women's Association (CWA) Scholarship Program. In 2021, 17 rural councils were involved in the Program which provided selected medical, midwifery and nursing students in NSW/ACT two weeks on a rural placement in country NSW and financial support to aid their studies.

  • RDN welcomes the opportunity to include more councils in the Bush Bursary program or link the Program to other locally based experience and training programs.

“I would definitely consider moving to a town like this and this placement has only cemented my view on that."

Somerset Lewis
Nursing student at the University of Notre Dame
Bush Bursary and Country Women’s Association (CWA) Scholarship Program recipient
Read Somerset's story

RDN's Community Solutions Engagement Hub

In new work, RDN has developed a Community Solutions Engagement Hub as a networking site for local communities to profile and share their efforts in overcoming recruitment and retention of health practitioners, financial sustainability of health services, and continuity of care.

The Collaborative Care for Remote and Rural Communities project was presented to an international audience at the Unity for Health Conference (Canada, August 2022). It was wonderful to witness NSW communities and innovation being shared globally.


Towards 2030 - local Council and RDN Collaboration Opportunities

RDN's 35 years of experience suggests that the most effective and sustained health responses in remote and rural communities occur when there is a dedicated local action plan. These plans - often driven by locally based leaders with local council involvement - act as the community's guiding compass and set the community's expectations whereby health-related providers and stakeholders can be held to account.

In partnership with local governments and various health stakeholders, RDN is building an approach to encourage action plans for non-metro local government areas. These plans are developed from an annual service access audit developed by RDN to assess improvement in health and social service access and sustainability within the communities.

RDN has found that annual assessment and work plan adaptation promotes enhanced coordinated planning to respond to local needs, more effective and collaborative use of resources and stronger stakeholder engagement in service solutions.

Please let me know if you would like to explore such an approach for your local council or region. Feel free to email me at ceo@nswrdn.com.au or call (02) 4924 8000.

Richard Colbran
Chief Executive Officer
NSW Rural Doctors Network
E: ceo@nswrdn.com.au
P: (02) 4924 8000

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