What is Outreach?
The Outreach Program’s aim is to increase access to health services for people living in regional, remote and Aboriginal communities by:
- Delivering clinics that reduce access barriers, including:
- distance and disruption from travel to major centres;
- cost and economic hurdles;
- cultural safety barriers;
- Strengthening local service capacity through upskilling; and
- Enhancing service coordination through forming partnerships and developing solutions.
RDN’s Outreach Program supports regional, remote and Aboriginal communities to access a wide range of health services. This is achieved by working in partnership with local organisations to support visiting health practitioners who currently provide over 1,200 outreach services. More than 170 towns and communities in NSW and the ACT receive visiting services that provide more than 200,000 patient occasions of service each year. More than half of these are accessed by Aboriginal patients.
The aim of the Outreach Program is to increase access to medical, allied health and nursing services for people living in regional and remote towns and Aboriginal communities in both rural and urban locations. Improved access is achieved by removing some of the most common barriers that many patients experience. This is accomplished through the following activities:
- The provision of services in regional and remote locations and via telehealth to minimise the time, travel cost and disruption often required of patients to access the nearest alternative service that may be hundreds of kilometres away.
- Prioritising support for services that are bulk-billed or free of charge in order to remove the economic hurdles that rural and Aboriginal patients often face.
- Delivering culturally safe services to reduce cultural barriers that are otherwise experienced by many Aboriginal patients. When appropriate, outreach services are hosted by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and visiting health practitioners are supported to undertake cultural training and local community orientation.
- Supporting clinical up-skilling sessions that are provided by visiting health practitioners to strengthen the capacity of local health services and practitioners to manage patients’ ongoing care.
- Developing partnerships with regional, state and national stakeholders to enhance the coordination of health services, identify priority needs and implement solutions that may include service changes or policy recommendations.
In addition to increased patient access, the Outreach Program provides urban and regionally based health practitioners with the opportunity to experience working in a rural or Aboriginal community (and in some cases this has resulted in health practitioners relocating permanently to rural locations). The program also supports students and registrars to participate in outreach clinics and gain exposure to rural and Aboriginal health.
RDN holds partnerships with more than 60 health organisations that implement the local delivery of outreach services. RDN’s local partners include Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, Local Health Districts, NGOs, hospitals and Primary Health Networks.
The NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) to administer the delivery of medical outreach services to regional, remote and Aboriginal communities in New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).