The milestone of more than 72,000 consultations undertaken with Victorian high school students under the Doctors in Secondary Schools program has been achieved.
The program provides GPs and Practice Nurses trained in adolescent health up to one day a week to give free medical advice and care to students in special consulting rooms at schools. The program aims to make health care more accessible to students while helping them identify and address health problems early, reducing the pressure of health care access and costs on families.
Victorian Education Minister Ben Carroll visited Hume Central Secondary College in Broadmeadows, which itself has delivered more than 700 consultations, to celebrate the milestone.
“Promoting student health, wellbeing and inclusion through the Doctors in Schools program makes it so much easier for young Victorians to access the healthcare and support they need to thrive,” Mr Carroll said. “We know that when students are healthy and supported to participate meaningfully in education, they can reach their academic potential and get the most out of their schooling.”
Mental health accounts for almost half of all GP consultations through the program. During these visits, mental health care plans can be developed and referrals can be made to support services.
The program was created in the context of adolescents having some of the lowest GP attendance rates nationwide, with many missing out on vital healthcare due to difficulties in accessing services, especially those who are socially disadvantaged or live in regional areas. Member for Broadmeadows Kathleen Matthews-Ward said the program helped remove these barriers.
“Giving local students better access to GPs and medical advice at school is helping remove barriers to healthcare and ensuring young people and their families are supported to get the care they need,” she said. The state government has provided $113.5 million since 2016 to roll the program out to 100 public secondary schools in areas experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability.
Some 25 schools participating in the program are in Melbourne’s growth areas and urban fringe, helping meet demand for services created by Victoria’s population growth.
“We are continuing to lead the country in making primary care more affordable and accessible for all Victorians,” Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said.
“Doctors in Schools is just one of the ways we are ensuring kids get the healthcare they need, no matter their circumstances.”