The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has called for adequate reimbursement for services provided by Nurse Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
“Nurse Practitioners should be properly compensated for the services and care they provide to patients based on their skills and ability,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said after giving evidence to the MBS Review Taskforce.
“Nurse Practitioners have been recognised in the MBS, which the profession welcomes. They are now able to care for patients in our community under these items. However, we must ensure the rebate adequately supports the excellent comprehensive, holistic patient care provided. ACN wants to ensure the MBS items for Nurse Practitioners are continually reviewed and keep pace with costs, reflect the skills of Nurse Practitioners, and enable provision of best practice care to those in our community.
“It takes approximately nine years to train to become a Nurse Practitioner. To recognise the skills of this specialised position, we would like to see MBS item number access and rebate parity provided to patients who access either Nurse Practitioners or Vocationally Registered General Practitioners for healthcare.
“This MBS funding access and parity should extend to all incentive payments, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, chronic disease management, Practice Incentive Programs, and any other payment that is provided for healthcare services.”
The international evidence consistently demonstrates that care by Nurse Practitioners (NP) results in processes and outcomes that are either equivalent to or better than those achieved by doctors, with the strongest evidence for increased patient satisfaction.
“Yet their capacity to provide services is limited by the old-fashioned view which continues to persist, despite the evidence, that nurses can only provide care under supervision. ACN wants to see the requirements for a collaborative arrangement between a NP and a medical officer be removed,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.
“Nurse Practitioners offer a flexible solution to fill service gaps in dynamic manner. Increasing the scope of practice and MBS funding for NPs would have a particularly positive impact in rural areas where access to services can be limited.
“Overall, this could actually reduce health care costs. It has been shown that restricting patient access to MBS items for NP services drives up MBS costs as patients then require multiple MBS funded attendances to address issues which could have been dealt with by the NP in the very first episode of care
“Better utilisation of our highly capable nursing profession can have significant benefits for Australians as the pressure on our health care system increases. For example, nurse-led clinics have increasingly become sought by patients for access to health care that is high-quality and effective that is delivered in a timely manner.
“ACN believes our Nurse Practitioners are currently undervalued and underutilised.”
The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce met with key stakeholders for input and solutions for contemporary clinical evidence and practice to improve patient health outcomes. The Australian College of Nursing consulted with its Nurse Practitioner (NP) Members before addressing the Taskforce today. During its evidence, ACN stressed that NPs are autonomous practitioners who work collaboratively in the multi-disciplinary team with other autonomous health practitioners.