This year our health care system continued to be severely impacted by COVID. Our focus turned to supporting wide-scale vaccination and the care of people with COVID in the community. In December we released our new Strategic Plan (2022-2024). We also completed a comprehensive update of our Needs Assessment for the region.
Improve the integration of care
The need for primary health reform has become ever more pressing. Within our region we are seeing the impacts of rising rates of chronic disease, a decline in bulk billing, workforce shortages and burnout, and outdated funding models. We have contributed to advocacy for primary health reform and are developing a local GP workforce strategy.
This was the final year of implementation of the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Regional Plan. Substantial progress was made against the 96 actions in the plan with 83% of the actions completed or substantially progressed.
Usage of HealthPathways increased significantly this year with the number of Sydney users jumping 45 per cent and the number of South Eastern Sydney users jumping 60 per cent. Across both sites there were more than 16,000 users.
Improve practice in primary health care
The COVID vaccine rollout dominated the first half of the year. Our practice support and immunisation teams worked hard to keep practices informed of the constant policy changes and facilitated transfers of vaccine stock to help meet peaks in demand. We funded fifty practices to boost their immunisation workforce. We also offered a nurse immuniser scholarship to 276 nurses working in general practice and residential aged care facilities, enabling them to deliver vaccinations independently.
We have a strong commitment to supporting primary health care with digital health and quality improvement and are seeing the results. Ninety per cent of general practices in the area used secure messaging last year and 96 per cent of accredited practices are participating in PIP QI. E-referrals have increased by 88% on the previous year to more than 58,000. This year we also increased our support to allied health in the use of secure messaging and other digital health services. We released our new digital health Strategic Plan in April.
We continued to play a vital role in supporting workforce development. Our CPD program had over 5,000 attendances and over 15,000 views online. Our DFVAssist and ProjectGrow programs also provided in-practice training sessions to build skills in addressing domestic and family violence and intellectual disability.
Commission local health and wellbeing services
Approximately 30,000 people received support from the services we commissioned this year with 170,000 occasions of service.
COVID saw mental health issues spiral. In September we launched two Head to Health clinics in Hurstville and Lakemba providing easy access to mental health services. With additional funding from both the Australian Government Department of Health and the NSW Ministry of Health we were able to expand mental health services and launched an online Telehealth Psychiatry Service. We worked with the Multicultural Health Communications Service (MHCS) to deliver a mental health campaign on social media and radio co-funded with five other PHNs.
Michael Moore, CESPHN’s CEO since 2015, resigned at the end of January. I thank him for his work in establishing CESPHN as a strong organisation committed to making a difference for the community and supporting primary health professionals.
Thanks to the CESPHN executive and our wonderful staff for their dedication and commitment to our shared vision of better health and wellbeing for all. Despite challenging times, once again you stepped up and delivered outstanding results. I thank our Board and Chair for their support and guidance in what has been another challenging year.
Our partnerships with Sydney and South Eastern Sydney local health districts, St Vincent’s Health Network and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network remain vitally important. These have further strengthened in response to the shared challenge of COVID.
We are grateful for the valuable advice and insights provided by our member organisations, Community and Clinical Councils, advisory committees, and Clinical Leaders Network.