Very welcome news: a Chief Allied Health Officer

14 March 2013

The Government’s decision to establish the position of Commonwealth Chief Allied Health Officer is the next important step towards best practice health care from full teams of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and others for all Australians. The Chief Allied Health Officer will provide specialised advice to government on allied health and also be pivotal in securing a multidisciplinary approach to health workforce policies and programs. The focus of the new position on rural and remote areas, where people need every bit of help they can get to have good access to allied health services, is particularly welcome.

“For too long, allied health has been the forgotten health profession,” according to Gordon Gregory, Executive Director of the NRHA. “When money is short it is so often the case that allied health positions in the public sector are the first to be cut. This is happening right now in Queensland and other jurisdictions which are losing allied health positions at a dangerous rate,” he said.
The term ‘allied health’ covers 15-20 professional groups, the largest of which are physiotherapists and psychologists. “Allied health professionals provide valuable health services in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, aged care facilities, private practices, patients’ homes, schools, community health centres, Medicare Local programs and rehabilitation services,” Mr Gregory said.

“The current focus on disability services reminds us all of the critical contribution made by allied health professionals to the services for people living with a disability - although, in rural and remote areas, there is less distinction between the disability, aged care and health sectors than in areas where health professionals are thicker on the ground.”

Eight of the NRHA’s 34 members are allied health bodies. One of the longstanding principles of the Alliance’s advocacy has been that medical, nursing and midwifery, allied health, pharmacy and oral health professionals should all be seen as necessary members of the multidisciplinary team and should receive equivalent attention and support.

The NRHA will continue to promote a model of health care in rural and remote areas that sees all health professional groups working with consumers and health service providers to improve health outcomes - and this week's announcement provides a significant fillip to the whole team. Congratulations are due to Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH), Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA), Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) and individual allied health professional groups for their consistent advocacy; to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee for supporting the proposed position; and to Minister Plibersek for acting on the proposal.

Media Enquiries: 

Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660