Inviting paediatricians to consult with GPs and patients in general practices brings multiple benefits for all parties, a research project highlights.
The project, called Strengthening Care for Children, or SC4C, provides families access to a paediatrician at their general practice, while remaining under the care of their GP, often dispensing the need for a referral to a hospital-based consultant.
Children are treated sooner and in their own communities, parents are supported and reassured, the GPs and paediatricians are upskilled – and admissions to emergency departments and outpatient clinics are reduced, easing pressure on the hospital system.
SC4C is the result of a collaboration between North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN), Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital, University of New South Wales, the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network and Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network.
The idea was first tested in five practices in the NWMPHN catchment for two years from 2017. Its success prompted the National Health and Medical Research Council to fund a much larger trial in practices across Melbourne and Sydney.
The model is now being peer-reviewed, and experiences from GPs and families involved have been very encouraging. It’s indicated that if rolled out across Australia, SC4C could produce a minimum 4 per cent drop in GP paediatric referrals to hospitals. This equates to tens of thousands of children every year.
One of the early adopters of SC4C is the North Coburg Medical Centre in inner-suburban Melbourne. Recently, staff and patients permitted NWMPHN and a video crew to visit the practice and explore their reactions to the program.
Having Royal Children’s Hospital paediatrician Dr Victoria McKay visit regularly, everyone concurs, means young patients do not have to wait 6 to 12 months for appointment.
“The doctors have really embraced the project,” reports Karen Hoffman, the centre’s business manager.
“As we know, parents are very anxious when children are sick and reducing that waiting time to get expert advice is beneficial from a patient perspective, a practice perspective and the GPs’ perspective.”
“We know there are not enough paediatricians or psychologists to go around,” says Dr McKay, “and we know that a lot of this very valuable work can be done with the GPs in their practice. Our aim is to reduce the number of referrals that aren’t needed to the hospital system.”
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