Diana Aspinall, champion of health consumers

Health consumers everywhere have lost a true champion with the passing of Diana Aspinall, at age 80.

A leading figure in the development of the health consumer movement in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Diana set a wonderful example over 45 years of the way consumer advocates can make a lasting difference to health and community care.

A former registered nurse, Diana used her own experience as someone living with multiple health conditions to highlight the everyday needs for healthcare in her region and society. Dianna worked at local, state and national levels, including with CHF, and was a founding member of Health Consumers NSW.

Among her many contributions, she was involved at different times with community development programs, countering domestic violence, community nursing for youth and children, arthritis, chronic pain management and consumer-led research for people living with cancer.

Diana recalled in a Health Voices article co-authored with Annette Wickens some years ago that she got involved in local health consumer issues because she wanted to make sure that health services were retained in her area.  Her aim was to ensure that the health journey whether in acute or primary care was joined up and not fragmented.

Diana was the driving force behind the Division of GP Consumer Reference Group which went on to contribute to the co-design of the unique joint NBM ML/PHN-LHD consumer engagement structures of which Diana was one of the chief architects.  The co-design process nurtured an innovative model of engagement which continues to this day.

An important step she said was for the Nepean Blue Mountains Medical Local (on which she was a board member) and the Local Health District to join with consumers to form an interim Joint Consumer Engagement Committee. She was a member of the board of the PHN which followed.

Diana was a very strong advocate for mentoring. In recent years, as she stepped back from being an active consumer representative, she became a mentor to many local consumer representatives and supported them in their roles.

Her advocacy demonstrated that it is often non-clinical matters which are vitally important to effective health care. The sorts of issues she sought to address included not only workforce supply but also transport and parking availability at health centres, access for disabled people, travel costs and centralised access to health information services.

Diana made a significant contribution to CHF advocacy work after commencing as a consumer representative with CHF in 2006.  She became a senior representative on the National Liver and Intestinal Transplant Advisory Committee around the time her son David underwent a successful liver transplant.  She held positions on several other boards including those associated with electronic health records, pharmacy and quality use of medicines.

She is survived by her husband Ron and children Heather and David, grandson Jono, and many grateful health consumers.

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About the author

Leanne Wells

Leanne Wells

Chief Executive of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia