The efficacy of a specialist NDIS social work role in a hospital setting : reducing waiting times and length of stay

Susie  Hines1

1The Canberra Hospital, Garran, Australia


The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was introduced in 2014 to the ACT.  This presented challenges as negotiating NDIS was uncharted for all.  Canberra  Health Services (CHS) has significant numbers of long stay patients with high level care requirements who cannot be discharged due to difficulties obtaining NDIS plan and specialist accommodation. Discharge delays deleteriously impact a person’s quality of life as well as impose unnecessary costs to the health system. In line with research recommendations for the “positioning of NDIS champions in key health services”, Acute Support Social Work (AASW) commenced a five month pilot in February 2018 of a specialist NDIS social worker.


The roll-out of the NDIS, necessitated establishing new processes for discharging patients (under age 65) with existing or newly acquired disabilities (sub-theme ‘Improving Services’). Consumers faced multiple challenges accessing NDIS. For patients with high level impairments, establishing supports and accommodation, resulted in extensive delays. For CHS, “delayed discharge or unnecessary retention in hospital is a major factor in increased costs”.


The positions’ function was to facilitate and coordinate discharge planning for patients with multi-faceted, complex care needs. Focus was on patients requiring NDIS services to meet complex housing and care needs. Further, it aimed to facilitate positive outcomes, through establishing pathways and collaborative partnerships within an emerging market and key government agencies.

Practical Implication:

AASW demonstrated a dedicated NDIS social worker displayed noteworthy achievements which contributed to reduced length of stay for twenty patients; a significant cost saving per bed day. Wait period for NDIS planning meeting was reduced by 170 bed days.


The specialist NDIS Social Work pilot position resulted in developing a sustainable framework that facilitates timely and positive outcomes for NDIS patients in CHS through innovative solutions, decreasing length of stay and leading to improved quality of life for these patients.


Susie Hines is a Senior Social Worker who has been employed at Canberra Health Services since 2013. Susie has developed expertise in the NDIS having worked with patients with complex disability needs to gain access to the NDIS and specialised disability accommodation and care support. In 2017, Susie was nominated for Allied Health Team Excellence Award: ‘Social Work and the NDIS’. In 2017, Susie published an opinion article in the Australian Association of Social Workers Focus Magazine; ‘Working with NDIS in the Health System’. Susie currently holds the position of the Canberra Health Services specialist Social Work NDIS Lead pilot position.

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