January 19 2023
The Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (The PHN) is celebrating the development of its 600th Central Coast health pathway.
Posted September 09, 2022
A partnership-first between Primary Health Networks’ (PHNs) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is contributing to a national suite of tailored HealthPathways to help former and transitioning Australian Defence Force (ADF) members move into mainstream primary healthcare.
The activity is one of many actions resulting from a national PHN submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. The partnership led by the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECCPHN), Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) and DVA, is the first of its kind, underpins this key action, and is a direct result of the recommendations made in the report submission.
The HealthPathways will help General Practitioners (GPs) support former and transitioning ADF members to navigate the mainstream civilian health care system. The clinical pathways will be provided to all PHNs nationally to ensure a consistent approach, localised for each region, based on the available resources.
To help ensure the Veterans’ Health Pathways (VHP) are effective and to identify areas to improve GP and veteran engagement more broadly, HNECCPHN, NQPHN and DVA consulted former and transitioning ADF members, and GPs in two focused, yet robust, workshops, held in the Oasis Centre in Townsville.
In the first workshop, former and transitioning ADF members discussed the transition from Defence into mainstream healthcare and were asked what worked well, what didn’t and what could be improved.
In the second workshop a group of local GPs reviewed the prioritised activities from the former and transitioning ADF members and provided ways to improve or add to the VHP pages.
Using the outcomes from the consumer workshop, a survey was undertaken in August to encourage further feedback from former and transitioning ADF members and families. Feedback from the survey will also be used in the pathway development and revision process.
Workshop facilitator HealthPathways GP Clinical Editor Dr Wai-Keung Lee, of Eastbrooke Family Clinic in Townsville, said the former and transitioning ADF members were pleased a national rollout was being prepared and having clear pathways would improve ease of access for them and better management by GPs.
As the clinical editor for the lead region supporting national HealthPathways development, Dr Lee said the next steps included updating veteran health pathways for health assessment, referral, and support.
“The use of HealthPathways needs to be tested in a real setting involving patients and GPs,” he said.
Assisting GPs with up-to-date pathways will better enable former and transitioning ADF members to access all the programs available to them. The VHPs are being developed in close collaboration with DVA.
Dr Kerry Summerscales, of Health on Central in Mackay, said generally civilian GPs are less aware of the challenges facing veterans in mainstream health care and are less aware of how DVA operates.
She said practical issues such as filling out forms correctly and receiving the proper renumeration were other concerns discussed.
Dr Summerscales, an Army veteran of 30 years, said having DVA representatives at the workshops was vital as they listened to the concerns of both former and transitioning ADF members and GPs.
Dr Summerscales specialises in and is a strong advocate of veteran healthcare with most of her patients either former or current ADF personnel, some travelling from as far away as Townsville to seek treatment.
“The latest Census figures show there are close to 600,000 former and current ADF members in Australia. It’s a significant number that can’t be ignored.” Dr Summerscales said.
DVA’s Chief Health Officer Professor Jenny Firman is leading DVA’s engagement with GPs including their involvement in the VHPs, while DVA’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Trish Batchelor and Senior Medical Officer Dr Dan Corkery have provided clinical review and input into the VHPs.
The three are practicing GPs; Professor Firman and Dr Corkery are veterans of the ADF.
Professor Firman said, ‘GPs play a vital role in supporting the health and wellbeing of veterans and their families. This year DVA has had a particular focus on making it easier for GPs to support veterans and connect them to the right care; and we’re thrilled to be working with the PHNs to help achieve our shared goal, through national Veterans’ HealthPathways.’
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