Health Minister hears consumer case for health reform

Healthcare consumers have today put the case to Health Minister, Greg Hunt, for his National Health Plan to fix Australia’s disconnected care systems.

In a Roundtable coordinated by the Consumers Health Forum, twenty consumer health leaders from around Australia met with the Minister in Melbourne to press for greater Government focus on the value of consumer-centred primary care.

The CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said the health consumer sector welcomed Mr Hunt’s readiness to meet and looked forward to future bi-annual roundtables with him.

Minister Hunt thanked CHF for their work developing the issues paper.

"The Government will carefully review CHF's suggestions and proposals on how we can make Australia's outstanding health system even better, " Minister Hunt said.

"CHF has proposed establishing a bi-annual Consumer and Community Roundtable to continue this work and I wholeheartedly support this."

Ms Wells said: “People centred care should guide the course take by health care in the future. We are encouraged that the Minister is listening directly to consumer representatives about what people expect from their health system given the competing demands for the health dollar.

“We have put to the Minister an issues paper setting out consumer priorities for a National Health Plan featuring two essential starting points:

  • Reforms to strengthen Australia’s primary health care system to make it more consumer-centred, prevention-oriented, better integrated with hospital and social care and added capacity to support transitions of care; and 
  • Boosts to investment in health systems research, shaped by consumer and community priorities, to stimulate services that reflect advances in health sciences and knowledge.

“There are great challenges in bringing a fully integrated primary health care system into the 21st Century but also great benefits for consumers and the economy.  Investing in primary health care is the way to a better performing health system.

“Too often Australians, particularly those with chronic illness, are confounded by our fragmented health system,” Ms Wells said.

“We have world class health practitioners and hospitals. But these are disconnected so that patients don’t get the comprehensive top-quality care that should be routine.

“This leads to poor patient experience and outcomes, frustration for families and carers and waste of finite health resources.

“The ‘big fix’ that is well within the capacity of our health resources would be for services to be better linked up and for consumers to be the focus of how health services are planned, organised and delivered.

“The Government’s Health Care Homes trials and Primary Health Networks provide potential organisation and infrastructure for locally-based, coordinated services.

“Primary health care is the backbone of the system, it’s where most people are treated and where we prevent much ill-health, but we need it to be better connected --- including between GPs, specialists, allied practitioners and hospitals.

“That requires much better Commonwealth, state and territory collaboration.

“We have a myriad of disconnected health programs administered by different levels of government costing billions yet are not coordinated to work in concert.

“This all costs the taxpayer while the consumer often misses out for reasons such as cost and lack of coordination,” Ms Wells said.

Roundtable participants represented a cross-section of CHF’s extensive networks.   


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Mark Metherell
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