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Give nurse practitioners what they deserve: ACN to MBS taskforce

Shed old fashioned views that nurses can only provide care under supervision and ensure nurse practitioners are compensated through the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

These are the calls the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) made at a recent presentation to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce.

The ongoing review was set up to consider how the more than 5,700 items on the MBS can be aligned with contemporary clinical evidence.

Adjunct professor Kylie Ward, ACN chief executive, said while nurses are now able to care for patients under the MBS, the rebate must adequately support the holistic 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," Ward said.

ACN also called for the removal of requirements for a collaborative arrangement between a nurse practitioner and a medical officer.

“Increasing the scope of practice and MBS funding for nurse practitioners would have a particularly positive impact in rural areas where access to services can be limited.

“Overall, this could actually reduce health care costs,” Ward said, explaining that when access to MBS items for nurse practitioner services is restricted, patients might require multiple attendances to address issues that could have been dealt with by the nurse practitioner in the very first episode of care.

Ward said: “Better utilisation of our highly capable nursing profession can have significant benefits for Australians as the pressure on our health care system increases.

“Our nurse practitioners are currently undervalued and underutilised.”

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