Changes of a lifetime we need in our health care

CHF’s 2022 election platform

The context for this election is like none previously experienced by most Australians. It comes at a time when an already straining health system, in need of fundamental reform and restructure, is grappling with a deadly pandemic that disproportionately affects the community’s most vulnerable people.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings the big picture issues and policy reforms that CHF has highlighted in previous election platforms (and elsewhere) into crisp focus, as is shown in this CHF platform for the 2022 Federal election. 

The pandemic brings into sharp relief the variation in health outcomes experienced across our community.  Those with disability and older Australians, who are more vulnerable to the disease than many other community members, have not had priority access to vaccinations, boosters, testing and protective equipment.

The CHF election platform recommends the incoming Government focus on four key areas to deliver the changes people in Australia urgently need in their health care.  These are:

  • Primary health care reform centred on GP-coordinated integrated services
  • Commitment to preventive care, including allocating 5 per cent of the health budget to prevention
  • Developing health consumer participation, including founding an Australian Health Consumer Leadership Academy and continuing the national Youth Health Forum
  • Improved access to health services including expanding public dental services.

Ultimately, reforming the health system will mean a shift from fee for service care to holistic services across primary and preventive health, allied and mental health, dental health, with links to other social and wellness services, and integration with other levels of care, including transition to and from hospital care.

It will require making use of new and innovative technology and digital solutions, with technology that is accessible to all.  New ideas to improve digital health literacy are becoming increasingly important. The digital divide will continue to widen without them.

Innovative approaches should be trialled, including with pilots of digital health navigators in priority communities. These navigators would support consumers’ access to, and ability to optimise their use of, telehealth and other forms of digitally enabled health care. 

What should my health care look like?

We call for a primary care system where:

  • I can register with a GP/general practice and build a relationship with my care team – which will include me and my carers/family – empowering me to actively engage in my treatment and care.
  • My GP/practice will be funded to provide me with holistic medical, mental health and allied health care to maintain and/or improve my overall health and wellness.
  • My GP/practice will provide me with continuity of care, including a single point of contact within the general practice and a link worker or navigator to connect me to other systems and supports, including integrated social, community and health systems when I need them.
  • I can expect to get the same health outcome, regardless of where I live, my income, my level of education, my culture and heritage, my sex, gender or sexual orientation, or my age.
  • Practices will offer services and treatments that are high quality, safe and affordable, and will clearly explain any out of pocket costs.
  • Higher COVID circulation in the community, may also mean planning for ongoing care if “long covid” brings ongoing illness or disability.

Primary Health Reform - the first 12 months

We urge the incoming Government to:

  • Finalise and implement a 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan and bring forward a primary care reform funding package in the Government’s first Budget
  • Develop a roll out plan for national implementation of regional collaborative commissioning to meet pressing local health needs by Primary Health Networks and local hospital networks involving joint plans, agreed outcomes, and pooled funding .
  • Start a roll out of a national social prescribing scheme for people experiencing loneliness, social isolation, and other mental health risks or conditions.

Commitment to preventive care - the first 12 months

  • Implement the 10 Year Preventive Health Strategy, and a 10 Year National Obesity Strategy, and progress commitments to spending 5 per cent of the health Budget on preventive health measures.
  • Establish a National Centre for Disease Control.
  • Deliver a national campaign to raise awareness and address the causes of obesity.
  • Implement community support organisation grants to support programs and services that respond to the needs of people experiencing loneliness or social isolation.

Developing health consumer participation - the first 12 months

  • Fund and establish an Australian Health Consumer Leadership Academy that delivers training to develop and grow a skilled, prepared, energised and motivated group of consumer leaders.
  • Continue funding support for the national Youth Health Forum.
  • Appoint a Youth Health Commissioner to advocate the needs of young people and future generations with government policy and decision-makers.

Improved access to health services - the first 12 months

  • A dental benefits scheme that offers income support recipients and other low income adults basic dental care with capped funding and choice of provider.
  • A national patient assisted travel scheme, that extends eligibility to trial treatments and has consistent eligibility and inclusions across the country, and funding to contribute to the costs of travel and accommodation for country consumers receiving care in urban centres.

There is much more we can achieve if we are to make the most of the potential of our health system. Full details of the CHF 2022 election platform is available here and here.

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About the author

Leanne Wells

Leanne Wells

Chief Executive of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia