Nathalie Hansen, CEO
The value of PHNs to the health system lies in their ability to coordinate care, commission services to meet gaps and build the capacity of the primary healthcare workforce. Over the past year CESPHN commissioned 93 programs that supported approximately 40,000 people and delivered nearly 200,000 occasions of service. Approximately 2,000 people attended at least one of the 222 CPD events we organised. We also delivered grants worth approximately $13 million to general practices within the region as part of the Strengthening Medicare GP Grants program.
In response to increasing pressures on emergency departments we worked closely with the Local Health Districts and Health Networks on developing proposals for urgent care clinics within the region. The aim of these services is to improve access to care for people with urgent but not life-threatening conditions that can be managed by skilled primary care staff. We commissioned our first Commonwealth Medicare Urgent Care Centre located in Maroubra in June and the clinic started seeing its first patients in July 2023.
A highlight this year was the release of our Healthy Ageing Strategy to empower older people in our region to live more active and fulfilling lives, enabled by inclusive communities, and supported by integrated person-centred health and social services.
This year saw CESPHN establish a community based aged care network with the commissioning of 10 organisations to deliver care finder services that support vulnerable older people to connect to aged care and other services and the establishment of two Healthy Ageing Hubs in Gymea and Newtown. These hubs provide general health education and will work with general practice and allied health to support referral pathways for their older patients requiring additional social support.
Our GPCanShare program continues to strengthen the integration between cancer specialists and general practices and improve care for cancer patients. Our two HealthPathways programs play a vital role in supporting the management of medical conditions and identifying how to refer patients to local services and specialists. In June 2023 HealthPathways Sydney became the first Australian HealthPathways region to publish 1,000 locally relevant HealthPathways. Last September South Eastern Sydney HealthPathways hit the milestone of 500 live pathways.
In response to issues impacting GP workforce supply and retention we developed a GP workforce strategy in February. The strategy focusses on retaining the current GP workforce, improving the image of general practice, promoting practice viability, and addressing maldistribution and gender inequities. This year we received extra funding to provide advice on planning and prioritisation of GP registrars to meet the community’s current and future GP workforce needs.
We continue to actively support workforce development through a combination of practice visits and continuing professional development (CPD). This includes training on the Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Support Tool for mental healthcare, education to support GPs and practice staff caring for people with intellectual disability and those experiencing family and domestic violence. CPD requirements for GPs changed in January because of a new CPD registration standard introduced by the Medical Board of Australia. Our CPD team has worked hard to inform GPs what the new requirements mean and to develop activities that meet the new requirements.
We have actively contributed to the development of a National PHN Allied Health Framework which was launched in December 2022. This framework has been instrumental in PHNs and national allied health peak groups developing stronger relationships and working together on the implementation of new budget measures for allied health.
Despite declines in mental health funding CESPHN was able to continue funding the Head to Health pop up service in Hurstville until June, but this has now closed. We know that that there is very high demand for mental health services in our region and we continue to strongly advocate for an increased share in funding to support our local community get timely access to mental health services. As part of our advocacy NSW PHNs have worked closely with partners including the Mental Health Community Managed Organisation sector to address these challenges and put the case for additional support.
A priority this year was to strengthen our engagement with community members. We developed a new community engagement strategy in September 2022. We released a video on the role of CESPHN aimed at our community members and a new website to better tailor content to our differing audiences. In May we launched voices4health.
Our collaborations with Sydney and South Eastern Sydney local health districts, St Vincent’s Health Network and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network continue to grow. We deeply appreciate the valuable advice and insights provided by our member organisations, Community and Clinical Councils, advisory committees, and Clinical Leaders Network.
I extend my gratitude to the CESPHN leadership team and our staff for their unwavering dedication and commitment. Their ongoing hard work and dedication to supporting the residents and healthcare professionals in our region have once again yielded impressive results. I would like to express my appreciation to our Board and Chair for their invaluable support and guidance during a year marked by growth and transformation.