Strengthening Medicare and investing in Primary Health Care: a Roadmap for Reform

2022 - current

Medicare was introduced in the 1980s to provide equitable health care for all Australians. The decades that followed decades saw advancements, expanding the scheme to cover a limited number of allied health items and payment for team care arrangements. In parallel, we saw establishing regional primary care organisations (PHNs) to better organise and coordinate the system.

But now in 2022, the primary health care system and set of Medicare arrangements are in urgent need of renewal. The 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan - the outcome of two years of concerted effort by clinicians, consumers, service providers, researchers and policy-makers – sets out the blueprint.

With general practice and Primary Health Networks (PHNs) at the frontline, there is additional impetus to invest in well-functioning primary health care (PHC) to meet the community’s expectations of responsive and accessible primary care.

CHF co-convened a Primary Health Care Leaders’ Summit with the PHN Co-operative (all 31 Primary Health Networks) on 11 May 2022. The Summit aimed to gather national and regional leaders together to reaffirm the directions recommended in the Plan, and shape the most pressing priorities for action to present to the incoming Health Minister.

The  Summit was attended by 200 delegates from across the health sector and Australia, including consumers from PHN advisory committees,CHF members and representatives from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

The delegates met with the objective to propel primary health care reform into reality - to speak with one consumer voice, one provider voice, one voice to government and produce a plan of action.

The summit highlighted some leading programs and innovations already underway across the country which, with the right support and systems, can continue to deliver quality outcomes for patients and communities. 

We heard from Michael Brennan, Chair of the Productivity Commission that primary care reform is a health and economic issue, referring to Productivity Reports such as Shifting the Dial and Innovations in Care for Chronic Health Conditions - primary health care reform is critical to health and wellbeing, a strong economy and the improvements in productivity Australia needs.

Michael impressed on the audience that innovation in health care has been weighted to the technological in the form of advances in medical devices and medicines. It is time to see innovation in primary care service delivery.

Reporting on the outcomes of the Summit - an agreed roadmap

A report based on the input and advice of all participants has now been published and presented to the Government.