Pilot implementation of allied health assistant roles within publicly funded health services in Queensland, Australia: results of a workplace audit

BMC Health Serv Res. 2014 Jun 16;14:258. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-14-258.


Background: Allied health assistants provide delegated support for physical therapists, occupational therapists and other allied health professionals. Unfortunately the role statements, scope of practice and career pathways of these assistant positions are often unclear. To inform the future development of the allied health assistant workforce, a state-wide pilot project was implemented and audited.

Methods: New allied health assistant positions were implemented in numerous settings at three levels (trainee level, full (standard) scope and advanced scope level). Six months after implementation, 41 positions were audited, using a detailed on-site audit process, conducted by multiple audit teams.

Results: Thematically analysed audit findings indicated that both the full (standard) scope and the advanced scope positions were warranted, however the skills of the allied health assistants were not optimally utilised. Contributing factors to this underutilization included the reluctance of professionals to delegate clinical tasks, inconsistencies in role descriptions, limitations in training, and the time frame taken to reach an effective skill level.

Conclusions: Optimal utilisation of assistants is unlikely to occur while professionals withhold delegation of tasks related to direct patient care. Formal clinical supervision arrangements and training plans should be established in order to address the concerns of professionals and accelerate full utilisation of assistants. Further work is necessary to identify the key components and distinguish key features of an advanced allied health assistant role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel*
  • Delphi Technique
  • Financing, Government*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Professional Role*
  • Queensland
  • Rural Health Services / economics*