Prof Paul Worley – Rural Health Commissioner for Australia

In a really interesting development for rural health internationally, Australia has appointed its first Rural Health Commissioner.

Charged with the responsibility of overseeing and driving a wide range of activities around supporting ‘rural generalism’ the post offers a chance to provide more co-ordinated leadership across domains, regions and disciplines to make rural health strategy more cohesive in Australia.

Professor Paul Worley has been appointed as the first Rural Health Commissioner and this move has been widely welcomed across the rural health community.  He brings an impressive portfolio of experience to the post, including in clinical, academic, educational and strategic development aspects of rural health.  You can watch Dr David Gillespie MP announce the post, and Prof Worley outline some of his visions for the future (at 5min 55s), in the video below.

Twitter and other social networks – including the WONCA Working Party on Rural Health international email list – have been buzzing with positivity about the new post, and it is likely that this approach might pave the way for similar developments in other countries.

In Scotland, we are watching developments with interest.  Rural medicine and health services are of significant importance in Scotland’s National Health Service – 98% of Scotland’s land mass is rural, and 18% of Scotland’s population live in a rural area, with many more flocking to rural areas during holidays.  And yet despite considerable aspects of medical care being delivered by GPs and primary care teams, within community hospitals, A&E units and facilities outwith the usual remit of GPs, there continues to be relatively little in the way of co-ordinated clinical governance and strategic unity to link rural and isolated practitioners together.  These services provided by rural GPs remain considered to be on the ‘fringes’ of general medical practice.  Therefore the opportunities created by appointing an experienced individual to provide leadership, stimulate innovation and inspire positive approaches, are sorely needed in areas other than Australia.

Having met Paul at the WONCA World Rural Health conference in Cairns this year, I’m delighted to hear this news and inspired to think that this is a situation to watch closely.  I have little doubt that we will be reflecting that Scotland could benefit from a similar approach in the near future.

Well done Australia, and all the folks involved in making this happen.  These are exciting times.

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