Allied health professionals are qualified health practitioners with specialised expertise in preventing, diagnosing and treating a range of conditions and illnesses.
What is allied health?
The allied health workforce is made up of health professionals who are not part of the medical, dental or nursing professions. There are at least 43 professions that are classed as Allied Health professions in New Zealand.
Allied health professionals are autonomous practitioners who work in a variety of health care settings and often work in multidisciplinary teams.
The allied health workforce is regulated in three ways, national regulation under either the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA Act) or Social Workers Registration Act 2003, or are self-regulated by a professional body.
Allied health professionals regulated under the HPCA Act are:
- Chinese Medicine
- Dental therapy/oral health therapy
- Medical Laboratory Science/Anaesthetic Technology
- Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Optometry and optical dispensing
Chief Allied Health Professions Officer
The Ministry appointed Dr Martin Chadwick into the first Chief Allied Health Professions Officer role in the Ministry of Health in February 2019.
The Chief Allied Health Professions Officer is part of the Executive Leadership team, reflecting the importance of allied health clinical leadership in the health system.
Martin joins the Ministry of Health from the Bay of Plenty DHB where he has held the post of Executive of Director Allied Health, Scientific and Technical for the last two years.
Previously he held a similar role at Counties Manukau DHB for six years. He has over 25 years of health experience in a range of roles in both the USA and New Zealand and has filled a variety of clinical, managerial and strategic leadership roles. He is the current chair of the National Directors of Allied Health group.
Martin has recently completed his doctoral degree via AUT examining health workforce change. Martin is passionate about the untapped potential that allied health professions can bring in improving the quality of care provided to our populations, and in turn better meeting equitable population health needs.
Allied health work programme
The Ministry of Health has five key areas of focus for the allied health workforce, framed as the ‘five challenges for allied health’. The Ministry wishes to work with the health and disability sector to overcome these challenges.
The challenges are:
- To develop a framework to understand Allied Health in a New Zealand context
- To quantify the utility or value add of allied health to patient care
- The equity challenge
- Making sense of a crowded landscape
- Transdisciplinary working
Dr Martin Chadwick talks about the five challenges
Kia ora katoa. My name is Martin Chadwick and it's with great privilege that I speak to you as Chief Allied Health Professions Officer here at the Ministry Health in New Zealand.
How this role fits within the Ministry is that it sits alongside the Chief Nursing Officer and the Chief Medical Officer forming the Office of the Chief Clinical Officers that is part of the Ministry which is here to try to work on providing better services for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.
It's been a privilege for me to be in this post for the last four months and over that time it's allowed me to think a little bit about what can the contribution of this role be, and how can allied health as a collective start to contribute more to the health and well-being of New Zealanders.
So what I want to share with you today is what I see is the five challenges that Allied Health faces now quite specifically I'm calling them challenges because I don't necessarily have the answers within my role, but I also strongly believe that their conversations that we need to have.
So as I work through these challenges I just really ask for you to reflect and think about what can your contribution be or what thoughts and ideas do you have.
Now the first is a question that I'm asked frequently is around how does one define Allied Health and so simply to begin to build a taxonomy to start to look at those professions there quite clearly are registered under legislation, those that have got a very clear framework by which they're self regulated, we have a very unique group which legislated by law, and in a very large group that currently I'm using the term emerging.
Emerging and so far is it their criteria you can use to look at a profession. At first they must do something they've got to have a training program, a body of knowledge be organised in some way have their own internal standards, and ethics and complaints processes and they must have an altruistic intent.
So within that component of emerging to begin to ask the questions where as a group sit as they begin to mature into true professionals and a part of that is to begin over time to build a dictionary for want of a better word to be able to articulate who has allied health within Aotearoa New Zealand.
Challenge number two is to be able to better today what is the value add of allied health as a workforce grouping and what I mean trying to socialise with that is the concept of utility within healthcare we pretty much will always be in the money that is given to us but there is always a choice that goes along with that money and how do we best use that money and gain the greatest utility by using Allied Health more and the choices that are made.
So with that there is the ability to say that we can provide more services for the same outcome or we can provide greater outcome for the same level of resourcing.
But how can Allied Health begin to engage much more forcibly in that discussion to say that this is the value-add that we bring and then from that to begin to articulate how can others begin to do and build upon the success of others to build toolkits to help others to inturn be able to put what has been a new initiative in place.
The third challenge is probably one of the most necessary for New Zealanders to begin to work through the issue around equity. Looking at the allied health workforces is that we graduate a workforce that is not proportional to a population.
All credit to our medical colleagues they have over those seven to eight years worked within the medical schools to now graduate proportional to a population so what do we need to do collectively to get to a point where we are graduating students that are proportional to our population? How do we ensure that students in high school understand the breadth of options that are available to them going into the health field that it's more than just Shortland Street that they too can be a play therapists or they too can be a psychologist or one of the many other professions that fall under the Allied Health umbrella.
Within that how to ensure that a workforce is that they are competently safe and that they grow in their cultural competence as well to ensure that we ask the most important question first of all when dealing with her other person what is it that matters to you, what do I need to take into consideration when we begin our therapeutic encounter, so how do we work on that cultural safety and that cultural confidence within our workforce?
The forth challenge that I see is a very crowded health landscape between employers, our tertiary partners, our unions, our professional bodies and our regulatory bodies. Understanding that each has got a unique contribution but to get to the point that we have a clarity of understanding that what is the unique contribution that each group has to make, where is the space which is highly collaborative between groups and where shared space between all of us, and within all of it ensuring that we do not lose focus of the people that we're here for in the first place? Now the last challenge that I'll put out there is around the concept of trans-disciplinary working.
To put this into a context intra-disciplinary working as we have professions that are very much focused within themselves inter-disciplinary working as where you have professions that may operate on a referral basis to each other multi-disciplinary is where professions may come together around a common cause but still operate very very singularly in their focus. Trans-disciplinary is with usability for groups to come together with an understanding what is their unique special skill set that they have to offer but also also with the understanding that there is an awful lot that is shared between professions.
It's not about competition.
How can we get to that point where we can come collectively with an understanding that there is much that can be done across professions and the literature will tell us that that only strengthens one professional identity.
So to be working in a trans-disciplinary way that it's not about competition and defending but rather about how do we come together to ensure that we're delivering the best care for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. So what I've tried to articulate very briefly or what I see is the initial five challenges for Allied Health in particular what I'm seeking to do now is the thing about what can I do within this role in order to try to move some of those challenges into actions. But I'm very curious and interested to know what that means to you and what your thoughts and your ideas and your contributions can be.
So at the end of this presentation there'll be more contact details and so I encourage you that if you fall within that Allied Health umbrella, please put your thoughts down I'd love to hear them.