The Commonwealth Department of Health has reaffirmed that nursing time spent on Health Assessments can be included in both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (715) and time tiered (701-707) health assessments for the elderly. 

This clarifies the confusion following the Department's previous announcement that nurses' time would be disallowed. This had caused some consternation among surgery nurses and principals as the health assessment funding was a major component for financing general practice chronic disease surveillance and management.

The AMA Council of General Practice had been in negotiations with the Department for two months in working through a resolution to this issue. While overall direction and responsibility for the care plan rests with the general practitioner, nurses and health workers can assist in data collection and patient education about recommended care and its arrangements.

"Practice nurses are skilled in these assessments", says Northern Rivers General Practice Network Chairman, David Guest. "Elderly patients, particularly those who are socially isolated or with early dementia need support to stay in the community and practice nurses are essential for co-ordinating the services required to maintain these elderly patients in their own homes", he said.

Nursing time can also be counted in the preparation of Care Plans, irrespective of age, but this had not been questioned by the Department of Health.