Eastern Melbourne PHN – After Hours Health Needs Assessment (Victoria, Australia)

Conducting an after-hours health needs assessment to guide resource distribution and inform future service planning

The client

The Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (EMPHN) serves around 1.6 million people and approximately a quarter of Victoria’s population. Encompassing 12 Local Government Areas, the region showcases considerable cultural and socio-economic diversity, and diverse healthcare needs.

Mitchell, Murrindindi, Whittlesea, and the Yarra Ranges are home to communities with higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage. Together they form a notable portion of the PHN catchment area.

The challenge

Previous EMPHN health needs assessments revealed limited availability of primary healthcare services during after-hours periods. Additionally, a significant portion of young people aged 15 years and under, visited the local Emergency Departments for non-urgent issues. Historically, avoidable hospitalisations in Mitchell, Murrindindi, and Whittlesea had been much higher than the average in Victoria by 25% to 50%.

In response to the 2022 Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report, EMPHN aimed to improve access to primary care in the after-hours period and reduce pressure on emergency departments. To achieve this, EMPHN sought to elevate consumer and community participation to grasp the challenge of limited after-hours care access and shape policy development.

EMPHN enlisted Rebbeck to conduct a health needs assessment aimed at identifying opportunities to align the supply of after-hours primary care services with the demand for those services across various locations. This effort would guide resource distribution and inform future service planning.

Our impact

Rebbeck conducted evidence-based literature reviews of approaches to after-hours care in similar regions and engaged in discussions with community groups, patients, and healthcare providers to deliver a comprehensive evaluation of the region’s after-hours healthcare needs. This assessment offered insights into various factors, including relevant socioeconomic considerations, service access mapping, and perspectives from both the community and service providers.

These findings guided an evidence-based needs assessment, supporting EMPHN in strategic decisions that aim to improve access to after-hours care and reduce preventable hospitalisations.

Rebbeck also supported EMPHN in developing a visually-engaging, succinct, ‘web-ready’ report summarising the findings of the after-hours needs assessment, tailored for a community audience.

central coast health alliance

Figure: URSAD Profile: Areas with higher proportions of low socioeconomic status (SES) are identified by the spectrum of red to orange (red being most disadvantaged) and those of higher SES by the light to dark blue (dark blue being most advantaged).