Snowy Valley communities will benefit from a new primary health care model to improve access to local health care and provide better continuity of care for rural patients thanks to the NSW Nationals in the federal government.

NSW Nationals Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said the government was investing in first-of-a-kind primary care models as part of a broader effort to improve health outcomes for rural Australians.

The 2020-21 Federal Budget invests $3.3 million in new models of primary care to help pioneer local solutions to team-based care and provide better healthcare services across sub-regions in western and southern NSW.

“The challenge of delivering health services in small communities is well known, and it is clear the existing one-size-fits-all approach isn’t working for every rural community,” Mr Coulton said.

“The trial of a new collaborative model of health care in these four communities aims to create more efficient and co-ordinated networks of GPs, nurses, and allied health professionals to deliver local services.

“We know that rural, regional and remote Australians can face difficulty accessing health care. Creating more flexible settings as part of this approach is an important step in creating a rural health workforce to service the needs of the region.”

The new Snowy Valleys model will investigate if viable practices may be better sustained by having a team of GPs, nurses and allied health professionals deliver integrated health services to a number of smaller, connected communities.

NSW Nationals Senator Perin Davey said The Nationals wanted people living in these communities to benefit from continued access to essential health services as well as reduce the time it takes to travel for primary care.

“Community is at the core of this approach and we want local communities to maximise their local health services and co-design solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of their communities,” Senator Davey said.

“In addition, we want more health professionals to choose a career in the bush. The rollout of the new model is a good example of how we can improve the scope of practice for doctors and health professionals and provide rewarding lifestyle and career opportunities.

Mr Coulton said this new model provided a further incentive for young doctors to come to the region and built on the recent Murrumbidgee Model for Rural Generalist GPs that was providing a training pipeline and improved support for young trainee GPs.

Director Service Delivery at NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN), Mike Edwards, said Tumut was an ideal location to trial innovative approaches to health workforce solutions.

“A key enabler of success for this trial will be aligning community and health sector expectations and goals,” Mr Edwards said.

“Through consultation with community-based working groups already in place in Tumut, we can agree on approaches that may work best for the trial.

“NSW Rural Doctors Network sees this Collaborative Care project as the start of a model that could hopefully be scaled-up to support similar sub-regional approaches in remote and rural areas across Australia. We look forward to starting work early in the new year.”

The models are part of the NSW Nationals in the federal government’s broader primary care reforms including a 10-year plan to support patient-centred care and equitable access to the best available primary health care services. Mr Coulton said rural and remote primary care is a key focus of the reforms.

“If we want to make an impact to tackle health access issues in our communities, we need to understand the local needs and look at more flexible and practical solutions to delivering healthcare in the bush,” Mr Coulton said.

The trial will last 18 months and is a practical solution developed with extensive community consultation and support.