The Australian Government has proposed legislation to enhance Medicare by enabling easier access to care from nurse practitioners and endorsed midwives.

The Health Legislation Amendment (Removal of Requirement for a Collaborative Arrangement) Bill is expected to benefit people in the country’s rural and regional areas, where people face difficulty in accessing healthcare services.

If passed, the bill will allow nurse practitioners and midwives to prescribe Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines and provide services under Medicare without the need for supervision by a medical practitioner.

Nurse practitioners are currently restricted from autonomously providing Medicare services and prescribing PBS medicines due to the requirement for a ‘Collaborative Arrangement’ with a medical practitioner.

The government cited an independent review that identified this requirement as a significant barrier to accessible, quality care, particularly for patients in rural and remote areas.

According to the executive, the proposed amendment would dismantle these barriers, allowing nurses and midwives to fully utilise their skills, training and experience.

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The Nursing & Midwifery Board of Australia’s Professional Standards for Practice and Safety and Quality Guidelines already mandate collaboration with other health professionals for registered nurses, midwives and nurse practitioners. 

Health and Aged Care Assistant Minister Ged Kearney said: “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.” 

The proposed legislative change is part of the government’s wider efforts to strengthen Medicare and aligns with the objectives of the Nurse Practitioner Workforce Plan and the Women-Centred Care Strategy.

Subject to approval by Parliament, the new provisions are expected to be implemented from 1 November this year.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) and the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association have both expressed support for the bill.