Primary Health Care Reform in Australia - Report to Support Australia’s First National Primary Health Care Strategy

4. Key Issues for Primary Health Care Reform in Australia

This section of the Report draws on the 10 Elements for an enhanced primary health care system identified in the Discussion Paper and identifies the key issues for each Element. From these issues, the Key Priority Areas identified in the Draft Strategy have been developed:

  1. improving access and reducing inequity;
  2. better management of chronic conditions;
  3. increasing the focus on prevention;
  4. improving quality, safety, performance and accountability.

Underpinning these Key Priority Areas is the recognition that a patient-centred focus (Element 2), strong eHealth system (Element 6) and well educated and distributed workforce (Elements 8/9) are key underpinnings to all future reforms in primary health care. Equally, issues of financing and in particular, ensuring changes are fiscally sustainable, efficient and cost-effective (Element 10) are key to defining many of the reform directions identified in this Report and the Draft Strategy.

At the same time, as recognised in the Draft Strategy, while issues of financing are an important element in determining possible reform directions, this would be insufficient on its own. An effective reform strategy requires action on multiple fronts including careful planning of implementation and consideration of change management requirements.

The Elements outlined below in Box 1 are taken from the Discussion Paper.46

Elements of an Enhanced Primary Health Care System

In our future primary health care system all Australians should have access to primary health care services which keep people well and manage ill-health by being:
  1. Accessible, clinically and culturally appropriate, timely and affordable;
  2. Patient-centred and supportive of health literacy, self-management and individual preference;
  3. More focussed on preventive care, including support of healthy lifestyles;
  4. Well-integrated, coordinated, and providing continuity of care, particularly for those with multiple, ongoing, and complex conditions.

Service delivery arrangements should support:
  1. Safe, high quality care which is continually improving through relevant research and innovation;
  2. Better management of health information, underpinned by efficient and effective use of eHealth;
  3. Flexibility to best respond to local community needs and circumstances through sustainable and efficient operational models.

Supporting the primary health care workforce are:
  1. Working environments and conditions which attract, support and retain workforce;
  2. High quality education and training arrangements for both new and existing workforce.

Primary health care is:
  1. Fiscally sustainable, efficient and cost-effective.

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46Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, 2008. Towards a National Primary Health Care Strategy: A Discussion Paper from the Australian Government, Australian Government, Canberra, available from: (accessed June 2009).

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Page last updated 31 August, 2009