A new statewide program is set to help deliver better, safer care for children in general practice, while also reducing the pressure on overstretched hospital emergency departments.

New online paediatric HealthPathways are being developed to assist GPs to provide best practice care for young patients presenting with low complexity, high volume conditions that are best managed in a primary care setting.

The Victorian Primary Health Network Alliance (VPHNA) is working with Safer Care Victoria’s Paediatric Clinical Network to translate evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (developed by the Royal Children’s Hospital) into statewide paediatric HealthPathways.

The pathways are designed for use during GP consultations and are written by GP clinical editors through collaboration with local GPs, hospital-based specialists, nurses, allied health professionals and other subject matter experts.

Adj/Associate Professor Christopher Carter, CEO of project leaders North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network, said the pathways would support GPs to take on a greater role in paediatric care.

“Many children who are triaged in an emergency department as ‘low urgency’ could have been reasonably managed within primary care, such as in general practice,” A/Prof Carter said.

“Building the capacity of GPs to provide the best quality paediatric care will hopefully encourage more parents to make the GP, rather than the hospital, their first option.”

Safer Care Victoria CEO Professor Euan Wallace said improved guidance will better support GPs to provide care with confidence and better continuity, while also relieving growing pressure on emergency departments.

“By better supporting GPs to provide care locally and in the community, we can help improve the healthcare experience and outcomes for Victorians,” Prof Wallace said.

“Not only will those who require urgent help at our EDs get seen without delay. But in choosing to see a GP instead, parents can take their child to someone they know and are comfortable with, avoiding unnecessary, often stressful trips to hospitals.”

The first suite of 13 clinical pathways, plus additional referral information, were released on 31 January 2018. This first group focuses on respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions and will be published on Victorian HealthPathways sites with region specific information.

A further 15 pathways will be developed in 2018 to cover the unwell child, neurology, ear, nose and throat (ENT), and allergy conditions. These pathways will follow the same rigorous and collaborative development process as the first suite and will be available in October 2018.

HealthPathways is a free, web-based tool with relevant, local and evidence-based information on the assessment and management of common clinical conditions, including referral guidance, clinical and patient resources. GPs can get access to HealthPathways by contacting their local Primary Health Network – visit vphna.org.au to find your PHN.

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