Welcome to the 2021 WNSW PHN Annual Report.

Click on the sections below to explore our results from the 2021 Calendar Year.

Message from the Chair

Dr Robin Williams

Welcome to the 2021 WNSW PHN Annual Report.
This report encapsulates the various and numerous areas of focus, funding and successes achieved by WNSW PHN in delivering better health outcomes for the residents of Western NSW throughout 2021.

During another extremely challenging year and its fast-evolving
environment dominated by COVID-19, its variants, and government
response, I’m extremely proud of how WNSW PHN has been able to
embrace the opportunities presented and develop solutions to bring about
real benefits for our region’s healthcare providers and their patients.

Covering more than half of the land mass of NSW, WNSW PHN faces real
and unique challenges due to the vastness of the region we serve and its
more than 300,000 residents. This report also shows how we work to
overcome these demands to support all the region’s communities as
effectively as possible while understanding their own uniqueness while
linked by common obstacles to quality healthcare.

Please enjoy exploring the 2021 WNSW PHN Annual Report.

Dr Robin Williams
Chair, Western Health Alliance Ltd.

Message from the CEO

Andrew Coe

Having joined WNSW PHN in July of 2021, I am proud to be part of one of the nation’s top performing PHNs, and I am eager for the continued growth of its success for the benefit of health outcomes across our region.

We draw upon world class expertise to support frontline health services
and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of primary health care locally.

As our region spans, both, the Far West and Western NSW Local Health
District regions, the strengthening and effective collaboration of our
partnerships with both Local Health Districts, as well as the NSW Rural
Doctors Network, is integral to the success of our efforts in meeting the
health needs of the region and making meaningful and powerful
enhancements. Together, we have an unwavering determination to improve the health and wellbeing of residents right across our vast region.

We also acknowledge that we work on the traditional lands of many
Aboriginal clans, tribes, and nations, and we are committed to working
with and building collaborations with our region’s Aboriginal communities
and peoples to improve their health, emotional and social well-being in
the true spirit of partnership.

Please enjoy this snapshot of WNSW PHN’s work during 2021, as we focus on patients who are at risk of poor health outcomes and working to
improve the coordination of their care, so they receive the right care in the
right place at the right time.

Andrew Coe
CEO, Western NSW Primary Health Network

Who We Are

Western Health Alliance Limited, trading as the Western NSW Primary
Health Network (WNSW PHN), is one of 31 Primary Health Networks
across Australia, established to support frontline health services and
increase the efficiency and effectiveness of primary health care.

Our focus is patients who are at risk of poor health outcomes and
working to improve the coordination of their care, so they receive the
right care in the right place at the right time.

We work closely with key stakeholders including general practice,
other health care providers, Local Health Districts, hospitals and the
broader community to align services with the health needs of the region.
WNSW PHN is a not-for-profit organisation primarily funded by the
Australian Government.

Our vision is to support, strengthen, and shape a world class,
person-centred primary healthcare system in Western NSW.

Our Region

WNSW PHN covers both Far West and Western NSW Local Health Districts across a total area of 433,379 square kilometres, making it the largest PHN in NSW (at 53.5%).

The total population is estimated to be 312,573 people, with 18.5%
over the age of 65 years (Department Planning Industry and Environment population projections (accessed 28th June 2022).

Approximately 10.5% of people in our region identify as Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander.

WNSW PHN supports 401 General Practitioners that operate from
113 practices in our region.

Advisory Councils

WNSW PHN has established five Advisory Councils which each report
through to the Board. The Councils assist the organisation set strategic
direction, evaluate outcomes of services, and support the design of new
services to meet the needs of local communities.

Clinical Councils provide support and advice to the Board on
opportunities to further develop clinical services to meet community
needs.

Community Councils support WNSW PHN to understand and address
health needs within local communities, including access to services
and service gaps.

The Aboriginal Health Council supports WNSW PHN to understand
locally relevant Aboriginal Community perspectives in relation to their unique health needs, access to services and service gaps.

A total of 24 meetings were held across WNSW PHN’s 5 Advisory Councils during 2021, as well as numerous consultations out-of-session.

2021 Initiatives

The Far West Alcohol & Other Drug Detox & Rehab Facility proposal is a
new initiative of the Far West Community Council, which has led to the
establishment of a Steering Committee and clinical & community
advisory groups, working with PHN, Broken Hill Shire Council, State and
Federal Ministers and other interested parties within the community.

Major 2021 items of consultation for our Advisory Councils included:

  • The Small Towns Proposal
  • The Pharmacy in General Practices Program
  • The WNSW PHN My Health Notebook initiative
  • The 2022 WNSW PHN Health Needs Assessment
  • The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Research project
  • Collaborative Commissioning
  • Closing the Gap
  • External Stakeholder Engagement
  • The WNSW Aboriginal Engagement Strategy
  • The WNSW Reconciliation Action Plan
  • The redesign of the WNSW PHN website
  • A new Service Navigation Portal for Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol
  • RACF Capacity Tracker
  • After Hours GP services
  • General Practice Engagement
  • COVID-19

Funding Report 2021

Major areas of funding provided by WNSW PHN During 2021:

  • More than $13.2 million for Mental Health and Psychosocial services.
  • More than $6.5 million for Chronic Disease Management and Prevention.
  • More than $5.8 million for Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing, Drug & Alcohol, Integrated Team Care, and Wellbeing Grants.
  • More than $2.1 million for After Hours General Practice services.
  • More than $1.45 million for Suicide Prevention services and initiatives.
  • More than $1.4 million for Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation services.
  • $670,000 for Diabetes CarePlan collaborative project.
  • More than $290,000 for Palliative Care services and initiatives.

Our Population

312,573 people live in the WNSW PHN region.

10.5% of Western NSW residents identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

3rd highest proportion of population of PHN regions of people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

A higher average of people under 20 and over 65 years compared to the state population average.

One-third of our LGAs are classified as amongst the most disadvantaged in Australia.

44% of our LGAs are classified as remote or very remote.

Higher rates of low education levels and young people receiving unemployment benefits than national average.

2nd-highest rate of single parent families with children under 15 years in Australia.

More details are available at wnswphn.org.au/our-region.

Our COVID-19 Response

WNSW PHN responded to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2021, providing support to all primary care providers.

Working with our partners we were able to support high vaccination rates across our region, support access to vaccines and PPE, and support our RACFs with vaccination and outbreak management.

WNSW PHN has partnered with the LHDs, RFDS and ACCHS to coordinate the Living with COVID program providing a 1800 number hotline, education webinars, Fit testing, home visit incentives, and a shared care platform (INCA).

The PHN had an opportunity to access COVID-19 Health Pathways to guide management of COVID positive patients.

COVID-19 PPE Deliveries

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during 2021, WNSW PHN delivered the following PPE items to Western NSW GPs, AMSs, ACHHSs, RACFs and Community Pharmacies.

This included:

  • 25,310 Surgical Masks
  • 18,575 P2 Masks
  • 9,815 Surgical Gowns
  • 2,650 Surgical Goggles
  • 23,100 Face Shields
  • 36 lots of Hand Sanitizer
  • 20 Pulse Oximeters
  • 13,200 pairs of Surgical Gloves

Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing

The WNSW PHN Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing team expanded its efforts in 2021, engaging with AMSs, ACHHSs and practices across the region.

Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) Network

Commencing in November 2021, with our SEWB contracted services, the
network to support each community to achieve the social aspects of the
program and creates a unique peer support network for the participants.

WNSW PHN provides guidance and facilitates conversation and collaboration driven by the SEWB providers to maximise the program’s outcomes.

Cultural Safety for Staff

The Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing team facilitated the 2021 WNSW PHN All Staff Day with cultural immersion activities provided by Lewis Burns.

The day included talks about local Aboriginal culture, vibration therapy, traditional dancing lessons, the meaning of symbols and the use of ochre,
and many other culturally significant meanings relevant to the local area.

The all-day activity was an ongoing artwork that all staff contributed to.

Our Reconciliation Action Plan

WNSW PHN’s first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a pledge to continue to build and nurture relationships, demonstrate respect for
and increase awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures,
and provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people, organisations, and communities in true partnership.

Under the guidance of Reconciliation Australia, WNSW PHN committed
to a “Reflect” Reconciliation Action Plan, which we launched at events
at Dubbo, Orange, and Bathurst on December 8, 9 and 10, 2021.

In conjunction with the RAP, local artist and proud Tubba-gah Wiradjuri man Nathan Peckham was commissioned by WNSW PHN to develop
an artwork symbolic of the RAP.

Titled Maradhal-Yandhul-Giriya, Wiradjuri for Past-Present-Future,
Mr Peckham says people are at the core of his artistic vision.

“This piece represents the journey the WNSW PHN is undertaking with
its RAP. The aim of the journey is to reach a place where the WNSW PHN
and its partners have successfully contributed to a unified understanding
and commitment to reconciliation across the nation.”

As well as identifying existing work being undertaken by WNSW PHN
aligned to its strategic vision of improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in and connected to our region, the WNSW PHN RAP identifies a number of actions and deliverables that are to be embedded in its operational plans.

These include:

  • Establishing and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships
  • with stakeholders and organisations.
  • Promoting reconciliation through WNSW PHN’s sphere of influence.
  • Promoting positive race relations through anti-discrimination
  • strategies.
  • Increasing understanding, value and recognition of Indigenous
  • cultures, histories, knowledge, and rights through cultural learning.
  • Demonstrating respect and creating culturally safe and respectful
  • environments.
  • Improving employment outcomes and increasing supplier diversity.
  • Increasing grant opportunities.

WNSW PHN has also committed to continue its reconciliation journey
by commencing the development of its next RAP in 2022.

See WNSW PHN's RAP at https://wnswphn.org.au/reconciliation.

Digital Health

Telehealth

The Healthdirect videoconferencing platform has continued to grow to 99 clinics and 525 registered users in Western NSW in 2021.

The clinics include a range of primary care providers including ACCHS’s, General Practices, Specialists and Allied Health Practitioners.

7,635 Consultations (Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2021); 92% of all consultations with mental health service providers.

The Telehealth in Residential Aged Care Facilities (TRAC) program now incorporates 21 general practices across Western NSW.

265 Consultations (Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2021); 

26% increase in GP documents uploaded to My Health Record (Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2021)

74% increase in cross-views of My Health Record documentation by healthcare organisations (viewed by other healthcare organisations; Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2021)

 

Shared Care Platform

Now launched in 2022, WNSW PHN undertook a robust evaluation
process to select an integrated care platform in 2021.

Inca supports patients at home in the monitoring and reporting of their symptoms, specifically for COVID-19 and chronic disease management.

iRAD

In 2021, WNSW PHN became the only PHN in regional Australia to offer the innovative Integrated Real-time Active Data (iRAD) interoperability project from South Western Sydney PHN, which enables healthcare organisations to share patient consented health records across the continuum of care. Clinicians report time savings of up to an hour a day due to ease of accessing information, while patients have peace of mind knowing their clinical team has the latest health information.

Electronic Prescriptions

Following on from the successful rollout of the token model of electronic prescribing, the digital health team continues to work with both pharmacies and general practices to adopt Active Script List across the region.

Mental Health

WNSW PHN continued its commitment to improving access to services
and supporting the mental wellbeing of our region’s residents in 2021.

Delivered through Marathon Health ande developed by Beyond Blue, the NewAccess program provides low intensity mental health counselling, delivered by locally-trained coaches with lived experience for people aged 12+ in Western NSW.

WNSW PHN awarded funding to more than 20 community groups and organisations to help those hit by drought through the Australian Government's Empowering our Communities program.

WNSW PHN established partnerships with a range of drug and alcohol treatment services and stakeholders to deliver mainstream and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific drug and alcohol services in conjunction with a number of organisations, including local health districts, local land councils, Centrelink, Aboriginal health services, shire councils and local hubs.

WNSW PHN also launched its Western NSW Regional Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, in conjunction with the Western NSW and Far West Local Health Districts, enabling improved service mapping, stepped care, service gap identification and joint focus on priority areas.

Regional Suicide Prevention Forum

The 2nd Western NSW Regional Suicide Prevention Forum was hosted by WNSW PHN in Dubbo on Tuesday May 4th and Wednesday May 5th,  2021.

Approximately 80 people from a range of organisations and communities across our region attended. They were provided with new insights and perspectives and have reported a reinvigorated passion for their work in suicide prevention because of the forum.

Guest speakers at the forum included Leilani Darwin of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Unit at the Black Dog Institute, Immie Wijaratne of SANE Australia, Associate Professor Simon Rosenbaum of the University of NSW.

They were joined by a range of local speakers such as Superintendent Andrew Hurst of the NSW Police Central North Police District, Martin Davis from the Western NSW Local Health District, Sue Hackney from WNSW PHN and representatives from local services funded to undertake suicide prevention work.

Topics covered during the two-day event included the lived experience of suicide of First Nations peoples, the stigma of suicide and mental health, the benefits of exercise for mental health and how to start a conversation with someone you are worried about and services to support families and communities after a death has occurred.

Workshop discussions focussed on identifying the priorities to include in the Regional Mental Health and Suicide Prevention plans being jointly developed by the PHN and the Western NSW and Far West Local Health Districts.

Education

Throughout 2021, the WNSW PHN Education Team achieved brilliant results, including:

  • 7 face-to-face events
  • 7 CPR sessions
  • 3 Medical Practice Assistance workshops
  • Hosted 65 webinars
  • Published 19 on-demand webinars
  • Attracted 2,266 people to engage in WNSW PHN educational activities

New Innovations in 2021:

Project ECHO

126 local clinicians engaged in the first Extension for Community Healthcare Outcome (ECHO) network which launched in August 2021.

There were six ECHO A&OD virtual meetings delivering evidence-based virtual learning as well as providing direct access to an expert panel and peers to discuss A&OD cases, case recommendations and best practice care for local communities.

Peer Learning Group

WNSW PHN’s first Peer Learning Group launched in Broken Hill in August.
This education series is still in progress, focusing on interactive, mental
health based education for local GPs and Registrars.

External Education Partnerships

WNSW PHN forged new partnerships and strengthen existing connections with external education providers including The National Asthma Council, The Benchmarque Group, Western NSW and Far West NSW Local Health Districts, NDIS, Black Dog Institute, CRANA, Blue Knot, PenCS, Family Planning NSW and local and visiting health professionals.

More Highlights

WNSW PHN Providing Extra Support to Rural Youth Mental Health

Rural Youth received extra support during 2021 due to a funding boost
from WNSW PHN.

A new variation to the WNSW PHN’s Rural Youth Mental Health Service Contract expanded services delivered through the Benevolent Society in several locations.

This funding enabled the enhancement and extension to services already
offered by The Benevolent Society through the Rural Youth Mental Health
Service (RYMH) across Parkes, Forbes, Condobolin, Cowra, Coonabarabran, Walgett, Gilgandra, Cobar, Nyngan, and Narromine.

This funding boost also resulted in a new service to Mudgee, which historically has had limited mental health service provision for rural youth.

The funds allowed for increased service availability in Parkes, Forbes and Cowra, which are areas where the demand exceeds the capacity of the current service model, as well as enabling the provision of outreach services across the Cobar, Nyngan and Narromine area without impacting negatively on current wait times.

 

WNSW PHN Scholarships Deliver Movement Disorder Specialists

WNSW PHN is providing specialist nursing care training to assist Western
Region residents living with neurological conditions including Parkinson’s through its Movement Disorder Nurse Specialist (MDNS) pilot program.

11 Registered Nurses from across the region have received scholarships to access theoretical knowledge, practical skills through industry placement, and ongoing mentoring and network support through the program.

Of the 11 Registered Nurses from across the region have received scholarships to the WNSW PHN MDNS Pilot Program, one being a Practice Nurse, one RFDS Nurse, and nine Local Health District Nurses, based in Bathurst, Broken Hill, Coonamble, Dubbo, Grenfell, Molong, Mudgee, Orange, Parkes, Warren and with the RFDS.

 

WNSW PHN Delivers Accidental Counsellor Training to Central
North First Responders

WNSW PHN joined with Lifeline Central West and Central North NSW Police District to deliver potentially life-saving Accidental Counsellor training to local General Duties Officers and Detectives.

Covering the Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar and Walgett Shires, officers of the Central North Police District, under the command of Superintendent Andrew Hurst, are often the first to respond to a mental health related call in the region, requiring extra skills to ensure the safety of all parties while undertaking their duties.

Delivered across March 8 to 10, 2021, Officers and Detectives were trained in understanding common mental health conditions, the role of alcohol and drug use in a crisis, improving identification of situations Police are attending and what supports are required in each, as well as improving confidence, skills and knowledge when responding to events related to mental health, suicide and non-suicidal self-injury.

 

Pharmacists in General Practice Program 

10 Western Region locations in 2021, including Forbes, benefited from the
new Pharmacists in General Practice pilot program from WNSW PHN.

Developed to provide specialist medication management services for patients, Forbes Pharmacist Kate Loneragan will be the first of 12 pharmacists working across 10 Western Region General Practices and Aboriginal Medical Services after she commenced at Yoorana Gunya on Thursday May 29, 2021.

Kate Loneragan’s work at Yoorana Gunya will be focusing on supporting
medication management for patients with Cardiovascular, Respiratory
Disease and Diabetes. She will also be concentrating on providing support
around smoking cessation within these groups.

Yoorana Gunya CEO, Donna Bliss, says she is excited for the potential
impact across all the program pilot sites.

“Kate and the other pharmacists involved will be helping to support busy
rural GPs and practice teams and is sure to be instrumental in the
development of new skills and experience for all involved,” said Ms Bliss.

She added, “This program will also be providing a vital link in the consistency of patient medication management when care is being administered in the practice, in hospital, or even at home.”

Western NSW Health Collaboration

The Western NSW Health Collaboration is a commitment to high-level cooperation between key health agencies of Western NSW; Western NSW Primary Health Network, Western NSW Local Health District, Far West NSW Local Health District, and NSW Rural Doctors Network.

It is a symbol that these organisations are committed to working collaboratively to develop a health care system that delivers well-coordinated, high quality and efficient care to the populations we serve.

It is also recognition that our organisations cannot achieve the gains we
seek by working in isolation.

The purpose of this Collaboration Protocol is to provide a framework
within which the parties will:

  • Strengthen collaboration to support joint strategic and operational planning, design of contemporary models of care, and coordinated implementation across the region
  • Determine collaborative ways of working to assist the parties to deliver on:
    • NSW State and Commonwealth priorities
    • Agreed local health and service need priorities
  • Work in partnership with key regional stakeholders
  • Work together in a spirit of good will and mutual respect

2022 and Beyond

Throughout 2021, WNSW PHN has proved to be one of the nation’s top-performing Primary Health Networks.

Our focus continues to be our patients who are at risk of poor health outcomes and working to improve the coordination of their care, so they
receive the right care in the right place at the right time. We will continue to work closely with key stakeholders including general practice, other health care providers, Local Health Districts, hospitals, and the broader community, to align services with the health needs of the region.

Through our dedication to improving health outcomes for our region’s
residents, and our powerful collaborations, WNSW PHN is helping to support, strengthen and shape a world class person-centred primary health care system in Western NSW.