A National Framework
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples access specialist medical services 40% less often than non-Aboriginal Australians. There are some places in Australia where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have a good level of access to specialists however it is not consistent. Inconsistent availability and access to specialist medical services across Australia is just one of the barriers contributing to the poorer health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
As the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework puts it:
“[o]n a per person basis, average health expenditure for Indigenous Australians in 2013–14 was 1.38 times that for non-Indigenous Australians. However, Indigenous Australians are currently experiencing a burden of disease and illness 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.”
The low use of specialist services is a contributing factor to the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.
Health is a human right, a national system is needed to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to specialist care at the same rate as non-Indigenous Australian.
The RACP was named in the 2013 - 2023 Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples access to specialists.
In 2014 the RACP hosted a Specialist Access Roundtable. Participants called for national action to address inequitable access to specialists and replace the ad hoc approach with a comprehensive and systematic national approach.
The Roundtable concluded that the principles and elements of equitable specialist medical access should be detailed in a nationally applied framework.
The RACP developed the Framework based on principles supported by participants and developed in the 2014 RACP Specialist Access Roundtable Consensus Statement.