‘Renovator’s opportunity’ for better health care

A new expert report urging a makeover of Australia’s primary health care development makes a robust case for immediate action, the Consumers Health Forum says.

The Grattan Institute’s report, Building better foundations for primary care, recommends the Commonwealth build on its Health Care Homes and Primary Health Network initiatives to strengthen and expand local services for people including the chronically ill.

“Many people with chronic conditions do not get the integrated care they need.  This report states the current developments provide an opportunity for reform that the Government should seize now,” the CEO of the Consumer Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“Any move to lift the Medicare freeze should be used to spur reform of primary health care.

“At a time when the Government is about to trial its Health Care Homes program which will include changes to the way GPs are paid, it is also expected to commit more than $500 million dollars over the next few years to lift the Medicare rebate freeze.

“The report’s recommendations include proposing a new payment to general practices for supplying more data about the care they provide.  There is currently no effective data that would give us a comprehensive local and national picture of why people go to the doctor.

“The report also recommends more resources and explicit authority for Primary Health Networks to create efficient care systems in their local areas and to be accountable for developments to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.

“Primary care and arrangements that strengthen transitional care should be the main game in negotiations needed between the States, Territories and the Commonwealth.

“CHF welcomes the recommendation that there be Primary Care Agreements between the Commonwealth and States.  For too long primary health services have been run by the Commonwealth and States along parallel, unconnected lines resulting in dysfunctional and less effective care systems. This amounts to nothing short of disconnected, fragmented care for consumers, waste and avoidable costs”.

“We also welcome the proposal that there should be localised tripartite agreements between the Commonwealth, the state and the Primary Health Network.  Such a move would formalise and consolidate the PHN mandate as organisations with a fundamental system development role.     

“We congratulate the report’s authors Stephen Duckett and Hal Swerissen for producing this report at a time when events are coinciding to offer the Government an ideal opportunity to drive change.

“Primary Health Networks need to be allowed to get on with the job.  Local commissioning of services with strong consumer involvement is the way to go.

“By encouraging joined up services between primary health care and hospitals, we can ensure there is better integrated care for patients not only in the community but at vulnerable points such as during transition between hospital and home.

“CHF calls on the Government to provide in the forthcoming Budget more resources to strengthen our primary health care,” Ms Wells said.


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