Julie Sturgess, NCPHN Chief Executive

North Coast Primary Health Network will be bringing its education program back in-house from July 2020 onwards. Clinical societies and nurse networks will continue to be supported, as will high quality, region-wide multidisciplinary workforce development.

Over the years, different models have been used to provide high-quality local education to primary health care professionals on the North Coast. Some models have grown organically through the ingenuity and commitment of local clinicians, such as those instrumental in setting up the Richmond Valley Clinical Society in 1984 and the Ballina Byron Clinical Society in 2014. Pharmaceutical companies regularly host and sponsor events locally. The majority of local education provided to local GPs, nurses and allied health professionals, however, has been funded federally.

Delivery agents have included GP training organisations, and federal and state bodies that visit locally on occasions, including RACGP, ACRRM and the NSW RDN. In addition, the Divisions of General Practice, North Coast Medicare Local and now North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN) have also had a strong focus on GP, nursing and allied health professional education across the North Coast.

In 2017, with support from local primary health care clinicians, NCPHN supported the establishment of the Casino and Kyogle Clinical Society and the Clarence Valley Clinical Society, along with the existing clinical societies already in place. Four primary care nurse networks were also established in 2017 across the Northern Rivers, Tweed, Coffs Harbour and Hastings Macleay regions. On average, around 3,000 primary health care professionals attended these and other education events every year, hosted by the PHN.

In 2018, a decision was made by the NCPHN Board to work with an external provider to deliver the workforce development program. This decision was made due to restrictions to funding that hampered NCPHN’s ability to deliver the program in-house. An open and competitive procurement process followed, with North Coast GP Training (NCGPT) being awarded a one-year contract in 2019. The contract included enhancing the clinical society model across the region.

For the past seven months, NCGPT has delivered high-quality education events across the region. It is fantastic that there are now active clinical societies operating in Tweed Heads, Coffs Harbour and Kempsey in addition to those that were already established.

Ongoing changes to funding pools mean that from 1 July 2020 onwards, NCPHN will bring education back in-house and deliver it directly. This changed approach recognises the critical role that education plays in enabling PHNs to successfully engage clinicians, support the delivery of high quality health care and create a more effective health system. This is an exciting possibility, and one we believe will allow us to deliver not only exceptional CPD but better alignment with all other PHN initiatives, such as general practice quality improvement and HealthPathways.

The NCPHN Board and Executive Team thank NCGPT for the delivery of the workforce development program this year. We know from feedback that the clinical community has been most appreciative of their dedicated focus on training and the professional calibre of the content and clinical involvement.

We remain committed to supporting the multidisciplinary clinical societies and nurse networks. We look forward to working collaboratively with local clinical leaders in delivering events from July. Clinical educators will be recruited, and an advisory committee will provide input on learning needs and educational topics. We will also develop an outcomes-based framework to ensure that we are on the right path and that our communities, as well as clinicians, are benefiting from the program.

The workforce education program is at the core of the ongoing work that the PHN is delivering. Please be assured that involvement and input from our local workforce is paramount in developing and delivering the program into the future.

We look forward to your engagement and contributions to ensure the best outcomes for the workforce engagement program, and, ultimately, the contribution of that program to achieving our goal of ‘healthy people in North Coast communities’.