Making it easier to get top quality care from a nurse practitioner and midwife

Department of Health

The Albanese Government is strengthening Medicare by making it easier to get top quality care from a nurse practitioner and endorsed midwife, particularly for people in rural and regional Australia, where access to healthcare can be difficult.

Today, the Labor Government will introduce the Health Legislation Amendment (Removal of Requirement for a Collaborative Arrangement) Bill which removes barriers that prevent nurse practitioners and endorsed midwives from prescribing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines and providing services under Medicare.

Nurse practitioners are experienced registered nurses who have completed a master’s degree. They work independently to assess and diagnose patients, request and interpret tests, prescribe medication and therapies and make referrals to other health practitioners.

Currently, nurse practitioners and endorsed midwives are prevented from autonomously providing services under Medicare and prescribing PBS medicines, without the supervision of a medical practitioner – known as a Collaborative Arrangement.

An independent review found this legislated requirement creates several barriers to accessible, high-quality care for patients, particularly in rural and remote communities where it can be harder to see a doctor.

Labor’s amendment will remove these barriers and strike a major blow against the glass ceiling that, for too long, has held back our highly educated nurses and midwives from operating to the full extent of their skills, training and experience.

The Professional Standards for Practice, and Safety and Quality Guidelines issued by the Nursing & Midwifery Board of Australia already requires registered nurses, midwives, and nurse practitioners to engage in collaboration with other health professionals.

The Bill is part of Labor’s moves to strengthen Medicare and contributes to the goals of the Nurse Practitioner Workforce Plan and the Women-Centred Care Strategy.

Subject to passage through Parliament, the change will come into effect from 1 November 2024.

Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care

Ged Kearney MP:

“Australia’s health care system is powered by the sweat, hearts and expertise of nurses and midwives.

“This change is long overdue and one that just makes sense. Nurse practitioners and midwives work hard to achieve their qualifications and it makes sense to ensure they can work to the full scope of their practice.

“As a former nurse, I understand just how underutilised nurse practitioners and midwives are in our health system. Labor’s legislation is about getting the best out of the existing health workforce and attracting more people to the professions.

“Labor is committed to ensuring Australians can access high-quality care, particularly in rural and remote communities where we know there are workforce challenges in healthcare”.

Quotes attributable to Annie Butler, Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF):

“Removing these unnecessary restrictions, which are completely out of step with international best practice, will allow highly trained nurse practitioners and endorsed midwives to utilise their full-set of skills and experience. With increased demands for healthcare and with chronic workforce shortages across the country, the ANMF and our members believe this is a common-sense solution”.

“We commend the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care for introducing this important Bill into the Parliament today to deliver the best health outcomes for the community.”

Quotes attributable to Helen White, Chief Executive Officer, Australian College of Midwives:

“The Australian College of Midwives welcomes the introduction of this legislation which will enable endorsed midwives to work to full scope. It is also a win for women’s choice of maternity care”.

Quotes attributable to Leanne Boase, Chief Executive Officer, Australian College of Nurse Practitioners:

“The requirement for a Collaborative Arrangement has frequently been misinterpreted, hindering access to Nurse Practitioner care. Nurses are fundamentally collaborative health professionals, underpinned by our educational and professional standards.”

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