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Secondary consultation: a tool for sharing information in health justice partnership

The last decade has seen a rise in the number of legal, health and other practitioners in Australia coming together in partnership to address the unmet legal needs that affect the health and wellbeing of shared patients and clients. One of the ways this occurs is through health justice partnership.

Health justice partnerships (HJPs) are collaborations that embed legal help into healthcare settings to address the legal and social problems that can make or keep people unwell.

This quiet revolution in collaborative service delivery is connecting people with the legal help they need in the places that they already turn to. Working in such health justice partnerships involves practitioners communicating and collaborating across multiple domains – including setting up processes, establishing mutual trust and ways of working, and sharing insights, expertise and information with each other.

This discussion paper explores secondary consultation as an activity that practitioners have identified as a valuable tool for working in health justice partnership. The term secondary consultation refers to communication and information sharing between partnering practitioners that helps them to support their patients and clients. In this paper we share what we have learned so far about the activity, exploring its definition, value and impact in practice. We seek to continue the conversation about ways to capture the extent and nature of secondary consultations in data, and the value of this data for articulating and beginning to measure impact.

The paper is broken into four parts:

  1. Secondary consultation – what is it?
  2. The benefits and challenges for practitioners and their patients and clients
  3. Capturing data and measuring impact
  4. Next steps – where to from here?

Our insights are based on a review of existing literature, our health justice census data, informal discussions and a workshop with practitioners, and a survey of our health justice partnership practitioner network that Health Justice Australia conducted in October 2020.

To keep the discussion going, we always welcome comments, questions and feedback about what secondary consultation means in practice.

Key observations: what did we find out?

In our research we uncovered the following:

  • Practitioners working in health justice partnership consult and share expertise with each other in a variety of ways, some of which are described as secondary consultation.
  • Secondary consultation is seen to enhance the capability of health and legal practitioners to support their clients.
  • There has, to date, been no commonly held definition of secondary consultation in health justice partnership.
  • In the context of other partnership activities, it is seen as beneficial for practitioners to know what the boundaries of secondary consultation are; to know what fits within the scope, and what doesn’t.
  • Secondary consultation can help to build trust between practitioners. It can be good for helping to build strong relationships.
  • The practice appears to have maintained or increased its usefulness during the COVID19 pandemic, even though for some practitioners it felt harder to do.
  • Secondary consultations are not always recorded and, where they are, they are not necessarily recorded consistently across different settings.
  • Additional insights from practitioners may provide further clarity on the practice. In the literature, secondary consultation is often discussed in relation to legal practitioners sharing their expertise with health practitioners. We aim also to elevate the voices of health practitioners in this context and learn more about secondary consultation where a non-legal partner shares expertise with a legal partner.
Read the full paper for more detail. (0.37 MB)

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