Federal Budget lacks vision Australia needs for a healthy and prosperous future

Tile with a white background that reads Federal Budget 2024-25.

Federal Budget lacks vision Australia needs for a healthy and prosperous future

Tile with a white background that reads Federal Budget 2024-25.

Tonight’s Federal Budget failed to outline a vision or substantial action for the nation’s immediate and projected healthcare needs. 

The Australian Physiotherapy Association’s (APA) pre-Budget submission urged the government to fund what truly matters to strengthen Medicare. This includes the development of new care pathways to reduce avoidable hospitalisations and assist individuals in better managing their chronic and complex health conditions.

The APA commends the government's ongoing commitment to rolling out Urgent Care Clinics, but evidence clearly shows that when physiotherapists are included in the model, alongside nurses and doctors, patients can access the right treatment faster and at a reduced cost to the health system.  

The cost efficiencies achieved through investment in physiotherapy-led primary care intervention have been overlooked. These interventions not only keep people healthy and out of hospital, but also optimise patient outcomes during care transitions.  

Access to critical care for people living with chronic conditions and those based in rural and regional locations remains a concern. 

The APA welcomes the $22.1million investment into research to prevent the onset of chronic disease and the provision of frontline non-surgical services that prevent unnecessary hospitalisation. However, there is a missed opportunity in funding critical preventive services including in falls prevention, non-operative injury and prehabilitation pathways to reduce surgical intervention rates, early intervention for patients at risk of persistent pain and pulmonary rehabilitation.

Commitment to preventing functional decline and hospital readmission for older Australians must incorporate physiotherapy.  

The significant investment of $190 million over three years in extending the Transition Care Programme to assist older people in their recovery from a hospital stay and connect them to the rehabilitation services they need in the home or in residential care is positive. The APA will work to ensure critical access to rehabilitative physiotherapy is included in this commitment.

The government has delivered on key commitments in the Strengthening Medicare reform package and beyond in supporting patient care out of hospital, such as timely care at home. This includes $610.4 million over four years for states and territories to invest in initiatives that address long stay older patient challenges, unique to each jurisdiction.

The APA acknowledges the important investment of $48.4 million to support the viability of Veterans’ Home Care and Community Nursing Programs. However, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of action in addressing access to physiotherapy for veterans. 

Physiotherapists continue to report that veterans’ care under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is not viable and that barriers to care provision, worsened by fee discrepancies within the scheme, have a significant impact on veterans' access to healthcare.

The APA urges the government to commit to the veterans’ community and provide access to strong, sustainable health care. The APA will continue to advocate for veterans to remove the current substantial barriers to high quality, effective care. Whilst consultation is welcome, it is imperative the government re-evaluates its stance and takes immediate steps to ensure that our veterans receive the respect, support, and care they deserve.

Together with many in the health sector the APA is disappointed by the limited priority, funding and reforms announced in tonight’s ostensibly future focused budget. However, the changes that will be brought about by the Minister’s Scope of Practice Review are expected to fully utilise the capabilities of our workforce and make integrated care a reform reality. The APA looks forward to further engaging in this important policy and reform process and is hopeful it will yield the informed and considered.

First impressions:

  • Capping the HELP indexation rate will be a welcome relief for many physiotherapists. The APA is calling for further HELP debt relief to support the physiotherapy workforce in areas of need, such as those who work in rural and remote areas. 
  • Commonwealth Prac Payment Incentive as a means of developing a sustainable pipeline in critical workforce areas. As physiotherapy is one of the top 20 professions in demand, we hope that physiotherapy is prioritised as this measure expands in future years. 
  • Physiotherapy is a feminised profession, and the APA commends the government's extension of superannuation to paid parental leave.  
  • $57.4 million over one year to continue initiatives under the Health Delivery Modernisation Program and to update My Health Record. The limited investment in supporting allied health, including physiotherapy, has prevented a connected healthcare system. The APA supports this measure provided it includes significant investment in integrating physiotherapy, and allied health more broadly.
  • $1.2 million over two years from 2024–25 to support training for health practitioners to better treat, care and manage women’s health during menopause. We welcome all support for training of health practitioners to improve care for women during menopause and await further detail on this funding, how we can contribute to the training program to ensure understanding of the value of the multidisciplinary team and which professions will be eligible to undertake it.
  • $361 million for mental health in a stronger Medicare package will put mental health at the heart of a stronger Medicare, by launching new free mental health services to support Australians to get the right level of care for their level of need.

More information on the Budget and how it relates to physiotherapy will be disseminated in the coming days. 

Stay tuned. 


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