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Keywords:

  • Australia;
  • general practice;
  • nursing;
  • Primary Health Care

Abstract

Australia, in common with many other countries, is expanding the role of Primary Health Care (PHC) to manage the growing burden of chronic disease and prevent hospitalisation. Australia's First National Primary Health Care Strategy released in 2010 places general practice at the centre of care delivery, reflecting a constitutional division of labour in which the Commonwealth government's primary means of affecting care delivery in this sector is through rebates for services delivered from the universal healthcare system Medicare. A review of Australian nursing literature was undertaken for 2006–2011. This review explores three issues in relation to these changes: How PHC is conceptualised within Australian nursing literature; who is viewed as providing PHC; and barriers and enablers to the provision of comprehensive PHC. A review of the literature suggests that the terms ‘PHC’ and ‘primary care’ are used interchangeably and that PHC is now commonly associated with services provided by practice nurses. Four structural factors are identified for a shift away from comprehensive PHC, namely fiscal barriers, educational preparation for primary care practice, poor role definition and interprofessional relationships. The paper concludes that while moves towards increasing capacity in general practice have enhanced nursing roles, current policy and the nature of private business funding alongside some medical opposition limit opportunities for Australian nurses working in general practice.