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Lead region pathways support veterans’ health across Australia

Published on 24 Jun, 2024 | Return|


Australian veterans now have a better chance of getting the care they need, no matter where they live in Australia, thanks to a new suite of pathways that aim to help ensure they receive consistent and high levels of care nationwide.

Following an approach from the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs to collaborate on a national pathway, the Townsville HealthPathways team took on the role of lead region, expanding on their previous local work to develop clinical guidance that could be made available to all other Australian HealthPathways teams.

“Veterans are a small subset of the population but they tend to have high, and sometimes very specific health needs,” says Dr Wai Lee, Clinical Editor for Townsville HealthPathways.

“The Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the PHN network recognised that a set of nationally consistent HealthPathways would be an effective way to improve and standardise care for veterans, regardless of where they live. We were keen to use the lead region model to achieve this,” says Townsville HealthPathways programme manager, Danielle Ferraris.

Each year, 5000 to 6000 Australian Service Personnel transition from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to civilian life. Some are more at risk of adverse health outcomes - including those who transitioned involuntarily and those with occupational exposures, as well as those who were deployed locally or internationally. 

The Veterans’ Health suite of pathways was designed to help clinicians identify and diagnose the early signs of physical or mental health problems among former serving ADF members. The pathways address specific health needs of veterans with a Veterans’ Health Assessment, and guidance on Veteran Referral and Support.

Under Assessment, clinicians can refer to key points about defence force and defence culture to help them improve rapport with veterans. The assessment guides GPs through a series of questions to understand the veteran’s risk areas and needs and includes questions that screen for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Other guidance helps them identify veterans who may be at increased risk of adverse health outcomes, and health issues which may carry higher risk for veterans. The pathway prompts GPs to check on areas of increased risk, including sleep disruption, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, hearing loss, musculoskeletal injuries, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental health issues. Referral options available to Australian veterans for specialists, allied health professionals and other local support and resources are also provided.

“The Veterans’ Health Assessment pathway gives every GP in the country access to specialist services that are available to care for this very specific group of people,” says Danielle.

HealthPathways Pathway Sharing Manager, Antoinette Ehmke, is enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by the growing number of pathways being shared across the global HealthPathways Community.

“A lot of work goes into developing and maintaining a pathway. The opportunity to create one pathway that can be shared and adapted for local use by multiple sites is one of the core benefits of HealthPathways. Shared pathways reduce duplication of effort for programme teams and increase the chances for groups of patients with specific needs, like veterans, to receive consistent care no matter where in Australia they live,” she says.

The Veteran Health pathway was piloted in eight HealthPathways sites across Australia before it was rolled out nationally in July 2023.

Since then, the programme team have identified that it would be beneficial to develop further supporting veteran related pathways, and plan to make these available in August 2024. Clinicians and veteran organisations have commended the pathways as being user friendly and informative.

“This suite of pathways is among the first group of pathways that have been made available for Australia wide sharing. More than 75% of Australia’s local HealthPathways sites now provide the same guidance with locally relevant information as appropriate. Pathway sharing enables local HealthPathways teams to propose ideas for state-wide or national pathways, and take the lead in developing a pathway that can be used in multiple other sites,” says Antoinette.

Find out more

For more information about this suite of veterans’ health pathways, contact your Community Success Manager.

If you’d like to know more about HealthPathways, or if your health jurisdiction hasn’t yet joined the HealthPathways Community: 

  • See HealthPathways Global for an overview 
  • Email info@healthpathwaysglobal.org or phone: 
    • Within the United Kingdom: +44 20 3519 1964 
    • Within Australia: +61 7 3559 2744 
    • Within New Zealand: +64 3 595 2830