Christopher Chan

Smarter use of nurses and doctors 'could save $430m a year'

EASING the burden on Australia's most highly skilled medical professionals could save public hospitals almost $430 million a year, enough to fund treatment for 85,000 more people according to research from the Grattan Institute.

By allowing others the chance to help do tasks that do not require a doctor or nurse's skill, medicos could spend more time doing more difficult work.

The independent think tank used Queensland and Victorian payroll data and surveyed hospital staff to consider how it could be improved.

Grattan Health program director Stephen Duckett said those with between three and 15 years of training should not be used to help sedate a stable patient or help someone bathe and eat.

"That's where we are now," he said.

"Hospitals have to get more efficient, or much tougher decisions about who should miss out on care will become inevitable."

The report found hiring assistants for nurses who could give basic care would allow nurses to focus on other work.

Specialised nurses in turn could perform some of the simpler roles performed by doctors, helping them to concentrate where they were most needed.

The New South Wales government is leading the charge, with its Centre for Healthcare Redesign.
Mr Duckett said roles in hospitals harked back to "the days of the horse and buggy".

"The choice to update them should be easy because it means more and better care, more rewarding jobs for health professionals and a more sustainable system," he said.