There are two kinds of priority tools Community Health Services (CHSs) can use to manage demand and ensure Victorians have the appropriate priority access to services:
- The generic priority tool allocates priority services to people who belong to identified population groups, including people who experience poorer overall health outcomes, people with the greatest economic and social need for service, people at risk, people who experience barriers to accessing adequate healthcare and people with complex care needs that require a coordinated team approach.
- The priority population groups for the community health program include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with an intellectual disability, refugees and people seeking asylum, people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, people with a serious mental illness and children in out-of-home care.
Clinical priority tools prioritise people based on their clinical presentation:
- counselling priority tool
- dietetics priority tool
- occupational therapy priority tool - adult
- occupational therapy priority tool - paediatric
- physiotherapy priority tool - adult
- podiatry priority tool
- speech pathology priority tool - paediatric
- dental priority tool
The generic priority tool is the first step in determining the priority of access for people. Once the CHS has identified and prioritised people needing services, practitioners and intake workers use the clinical priority tools to allocate people to priority groups.
Who should use the priority tools
All community and public dental health services use the priority tools, under the funding requirements. Clinical practitioners use the tools as well as intake workers. Intake workers without a background in the relevant clinical priority tool should consult with the practitioner if they cannot determine the level of priority of service.
When CHSs should use the tools
CHSs should use the tools as part of the initial needs identification (INI), and any subsequent needs assessment.
INI is the initial screening process that explores a person’s presenting and underlying issues. The process helps determine if the person should be referred to another service. It is not a diagnostic process or detailed assessment.
Subsequent assessments may occur at any stage along the person’s journey through the CHS.
CHSs can adapt the tools to meet local needs, but they must consult with the department, neighbouring CHSs and Primary Care Partnership (PCP) partner agencies.
CHSs may adapt the tools by:
- adding criteria (but they cannot remove criteria)
- rephrasing and reordering questions
- incorporating other prioritisation tools developed to address local or catchment needs (for example, chronic disease risk tools implemented through the local PCP).
What happens to clients once they are on the waiting list
All people placed on a waiting list should receive a service. People with high priority should be seen as quickly as possible. People with low priority will have a longer wait.
CHSs who adopt a waiting list management system are better able to ensure that they can see people within established timeframes.