About the Program

The Collaborative Care Program is a community-centred approach to addressing the primary health care challenges in remote and rural NSW. These challenges include the recruitment and retention of health practitioners, financial sustainability of health services, and continuity of care. The Program works with local health professionals and communities to create a primary healthcare access model that fits their needs. It does this by bringing communities from neighbouring areas together to develop shared priorities and solutions. The Collaborative Care Program is an extension of RDN’s town-based health planning approach which has proven successful for more than 30 years.

The Program received funding through the Australian Government in March 2021 and is scheduled to run until June 2024. Most of the trials are now completed and are undergoing evaluations. The models in these areas have transitioned their activities to business as usual.

The Program is testing unique models of primary healthcare service delivery in five locations across rural NSW:

  1. The 4Ts (Tottenham, Tullamore, Trangie, and Trundle)   
  2. Canola Fields (Canowindra and its surrounding towns)
  3. Lachlan Health Region (Condobolin, Forbes, and Parkes)
  4. Snowy Valleys (towns of the Snowy Valleys LGA)
  5. Wentworth Shire.

These projects integrate with existing Australian Government and NSW Ministry of Health initiatives.

Who is involved?

The Collaborative Care Program is the result of an ongoing collaboration between RDN and our partner agencies that cooperatively administer these projects:

  • Far West Local Health District
  • Murrumbidgee Local Health District
  • Western NSW Local Health District
  • Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network
  • Western NSW Primary Health Network.

The Program is being coordinated by RDN and has received funding support from the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. In each location, we work with many other local representatives to achieve a holistic, community-centred approach.

How does it work?

The Collaborative Care Program adopts a step-by-step approach to community-based primary healthcare planning. The coordinating organisations form a project team that guides their communities through the five planning phases shown below. Community engagement and empowerment is a central part of each step.

1. Investigate needs: What are the primary health care needs in the community?

2. Prioritise needs: Which of these needs should we tackle first?

3. Co-design solutions: Decide together how we could improve access to these important services for the community.

4. Implement solutions: Put the plan into practice and make sure communities know what to expect. 

5. Reflect & learn: Look at what is working well and where improvements can still be made.

It is often an iterative process. As the community stakeholders continue to collaborate they uncover more opportunities to improve access to primary healthcare in their communities. The learnings from previous activities lead to new investigations, new opportunities, and new ideas to be trialled. This approach was adapted by the Collaborative Care Program team from experience across the five trial sites and from research undertaken by program partners: Collaborative Care: Primary health workforce and service delivery in Western New South Wales — A case study.

For more information contact Justyn Walker, Program Lead - Collaborative Care, NSW Rural Doctors Network, on 02 4924 8066 or jwalker@nswrdn.com.au