Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia

More than a million Australians living in rural and remote areas are denied the access to basic medical care that most city dwellers take for granted. In 7 areas containing 1 in 20 Australians, limited access to GPs is imposing severe costs on individuals, doctors and the health system. The areas include Tamworth, Goulburn and Mount Isa, as well as the Northern Territory and most of Western Australia.

The shortage of GPs is not just unfair, it is irrational. People in rural areas with low access to GPs are more likely than other Australians to face serious health risks. An inability to get care is likely to cost the taxpayer much more in the long-run than the cost of the changes proposed in this report.

An investment of around $30 million a year would go a long way towards solving Australia's worst shortages. The funds would support a greater role for pharmacists, especially in providing repeat prescriptions and vaccinations, and the introduction of a new health worker, the physician assistant, to expand care in remote areas. Without compromising quality and safety, the changes would free up GPs to do the complex work they are trained to do. The health benefits generated by the reform could reduce the cost of hospital visits by an amount equivalent to the $30 million investment.

For decades, successive government policies have failed to fix the problem. At current rates of improvement it would take more than 65 years for very remote parts of Australia to catch up to the levels of GP services that big cities have today.

Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia by Stephen Duckett and Peter Breadon proposes a relatively cheap and straightforward solution that could be in place within 5 years, if policymakers are willing to adopt new responses to an old problem.

Working with Indigenous patients

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Indigenous health podcast series has been developed to provide an introduction to working with Indigenous patients.

This series focuses on providing resources to Australian rural and regional Fellows, trainees and international medical graduate specialists, though the principles discussed also would usually apply in urban practice. The underlying importance of respect applies to all cross-cultural interactions. Topics covered to date are :

* Asking about Indigenous status
* Communication
* Consent
* Culture
* Culture shock (IMGS)
* Diffusing anger
* Pain management
* Pre-operative visit
* Traditional parenting

Health expenditure Australia 2011-12 (AIHW)

Health expenditure Australia 2011-12 was estimated to be $140.2 billion, up from $82.9 billion in 2001-02. This expenditure was 9.5% of GDP in 2011-12, up from 9.3% in 2010-11 and up from 8.4% in 2001-02. The estimated recurrent expenditure on health was $5,881 per person. Governments funded 69.7% of total health expenditure, a slight increase from 69.1% in 2010-11. The largest components of health spending were public hospital services ($42.0 billion, or 31.8% of recurrent expenditure), followed by medical services ($23.9 billion, or 18.1%) and medications ($18.8 billion, or 14.2%).

Media release

Movement between hospital and residential aged care 2008-09 (AIHW)

Movement between hospital and residential aged care 2008-09 examines movements between hospital and residential aged care by people aged 65 and over in 2008-09. Overall, almost 10% of 1.1 million hospitalisations for older people were for people already living in residential aged care. A further 3% of hospitalisations for older people ended with the patient being newly admitted into residential care. This report also describes the characteristics of people moving between the two sectors, and short-term outcomes for people going into residential care.

Media release

Social Media GP

Social Media GP is run by a group of GPs, GP Registrars and Medical Students who are passionate about increasing the awareness and use of social media by Australian general practitioners.

Social media provides nearly unlimited opportunities in medical education, social and political advocacy, networking with your peers and overcoming professional and personal isolation in rural communities. It's free, easy and we're here to help, so why not take the first step and get involved?

The Social Media GP website features several training videos on using diverse social media applications including FOAMED, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Adult oral health and dental visiting in Australia (AIHW)

Adult oral health and dental visiting in Australia: results from the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2010 reports oral health and dental visiting patterns of Australian adults in 2010, and trends from 1994 to 2010. While most adults reported good oral health in 2010 and 60% had visited a dentist in the previous 12 months, almost 38% reported a financial barrier or hardship associated with dental visits. Adults from lower income households, or those who held a concession card, reported poorer oral health status, more toothache, less dental visiting and greater difficulty in paying a $150 dental bill than those from higher income households and non-cardholders.

World-first clinical trial of online suicide intervention launched

Around 2,300 people in Australia take their lives every year and many thousands more experience thoughts that life isn't worth living. It is an issue that is on the increase internationally, particularly amongst young people.

A world-first program developed by researchers at the Black Dog Institute and the Australian National University aims to empower people to take charge of unhelpful thoughts and learn ways to manage them on an ongoing basis. Called "Healthy Thinking" the web-based, self-help program has been designed to circumvent the issues of stigma that often stop people from seeking face-to-face help.

"We know that many people are reluctant to acknowledge their thoughts of suicide," says Professor Helen Christensen, Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute. "The Healthy Thinking trial is offering people a confidential self-help service that can be accessed 24/7 by anyone with internet access."

Australians who have experienced suicidal thoughts are invited to register their interest in the "Healthy Thinking" Trial at

About "Healthy Thinking"

New asthma reports from AIHW

Asthma hospitalisations in Australia 2010-11

This report provides an overview of hospitalisation patterns over time and across population groups. Asthma hospitalisation rates decreased between 1998-99 and 2010-11, by 33% for children and 45% for adults. The rate of hospitalisation for asthma among Indigenous Australians was 2.1 times the rate for Other Australians. Asthma hospitalisation rates were also higher for people living in areas with lower socioeconomic status.

Media release

Monitoring asthma in pregnancy: a discussion paper

Asthma in pregnant women may have adverse effects on maternal, fetal and infant outcomes, particularly if expectant mothers experience an exacerbation of asthma while pregnant. Pregnancy, in turn, may have adverse effects on asthma control among expectant mothers. This report outlines a proposed approach to monitoring asthma during pregnancy by capitalising on existing data sources as well as identifying data development opportunities.

Allied health workforce 2012 (AIHW)

Allied health workforce 2012 outlines the workforce characteristics of 11 allied health professions for 2011 and 2012. In 2012, more than 4 in 5 registered practitioners were actively employed in their profession (from 76.2% for psychologists to 92.3% for podiatrists). For most professions there were more women than men employed. The average working week for employed practitioners ranged from 31.8 hours for Chinese medicine practitioners to 40.5 hours for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners.

Media release

CareSearch Allied Health Hub Launched

Allied health professionals now have access to high quality online palliative care information to better support clients who are approaching the end of life.

CareSearch, the palliative care website which hosts the Nurses Hub, GP Hub and the Residential Aged Care Hub, is excited to announce the launch of the brand new Allied Health Hub!

The new Allied Health Hub is specifically designed to meet the information needs of allied health professionals who work with palliative clients.

Allied Health Hub


Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Exposure to a potentially traumatic event (PTE) is a common experience, with up to three quarters of the population likely to experience at least one during their lifetime. PTEs involve exposure to an event involving threat, actual or perceived, to the life or physical safety of the individual, their loved ones or those around them. They can be experienced on a single occasion or repeatedly.

A degree of psychological distress is very common in the early aftermath of traumatic exposure and can be considered a part of the normal response. When the individual's psychological distress following exposure to a traumatic event persists, and is severe enough to interfere with important areas of psychosocial functioning, it can no longer be considered a normal response to traumatic exposure. The possibility of a posttraumatic mental health disorder such as PTSD should be considered.

The Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder aim to support high quality treatment of people with PTSD by providing a framework of best practice around which to structure treatment. While there has been growing consensus about the treatment of ASD and PTSD in recent years, approaches are varied and there is still a gap between evidence-based practice and routine clinical care.

A suite of products that accompanies the main Guidelines includes:

*an easy to read summary booklet of the recommendations contained in the Guidelines for mental health professionals
*a booklet for adults affected by trauma
*a booklet for teenagers affected by trauma
*a storybook for children who have experienced trauma
*a practitioner guide for mental health professionals who work with children, adolescents and their families.

Children and teenagers get factored into the new guidelines for PTSD treatment (ABC)

Workshops aim to raise awareness of stress (Rural Mental Health)

Rural counsellor Lynn Stuart helps bush people battling depression or suicidal thoughts.
The experienced local mental health worker is running a series of workshops supported by the Southern Downs Regional Council across the region focused on helping rural people affected by the floods.

She said the series aims to raise awareness about how disaster and subsequent stress can trigger mental illness and suicidal behaviour.

Free Male Health Education DVD "A lot of Aboriginal men sort of keep it to themselves"

"A lot of Aboriginal men sort of keep it to themselves" Andrology Australia's Male Health Education DVD, provides health professionals with the knowledge and skills to initiate dialogue and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males about the potentially tricky topic of male reproductive health.

The DVD includes a series of interviews with a number of health professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and medical specialists with expertise in male reproductive health issues, and covers a number of themes such as male friendly health services, strategies when starting to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and talking about sexual health issues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males. Information about the causes and management of erectile dysfunction and links between chronic disease and ED is also included.

A limited number of DVDs is available - to request a copy of the DVD, or to enquire about its availability, please contact or call 1300 303 878.

The Suicide Prevention and Recovery Guide

SANE Australia has released a practical and easy-to-understand resource which helps people working in mental health to support a person who may be at risk of taking their own life.

"Supporting people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours can be a challenging and daunting task," explains Charmaine Smith, Acting CEO of SANE Australia. "The Suicide Prevention and Recovery Guide aims to inform a range of mental health workers about different ways to address the issue of suicide with their clients."

According to Ms Smith, preventing suicide is a core function of what mental health services do, and although not everyone with mental illness will experience suicidal thoughts and behaviours, people with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and mood disorders such as depression and bipolar have a higher risk of suicide than others in the community.

"This guide encourages people working in mental health, in both community and hospital settings, to consider a holistic approach toward the person they are caring for, including them in decision making and encouraging individual responsibility. "

About the guide

Australian mental health sector : scoping study

Media release

Intellectual disability mental health e-learning

idmh e-learning is a new e-learning website which promotes better mental health care for people with an intellectual disability Free training is now available for health and disability professionals around Australia, to increase skills and confidence in the mental health care of people with an intellectual disability.

People with an intellectual disability are at an increased risk of developing a mental disorder, compared to the general population. In the past, mental health professionals have often not had access to specific training to respond to this vulnerable group.

The new e-Learning website is a practical, free resource with a focus on the fundamental skills and knowledge needed for clinical training this area. This includes communication, assessment and management of mental disorders.

Additional modules for carers and consumers are in development

For more information, go to or contact