National Health Reform Update

01 Jun 2011Health reform update

Many of the building blocks of national health reform are now in place.

The 2011-12 Budget, recently delivered by the Australian Government, builds on its substantial national health reform commitments.

A further $1.5 billion investment over five years in mental health will bolster reform initiatives to deliver better targeted, better coordinated and more comprehensive care for people with mental illness and their families.

The Government’s new investments in health care infrastructure and services in regional Australia will deliver better health services to rural communities.

Dental care will receive a $53.1 million boost to fund new initiatives including the establishment of a voluntary dental internship program to improve community access to dental services.

A $16 million investment in the aged care industry will continue to improve the viability of services to older Australians in rural and remote areas.

These new investments will strengthen national health reform efforts already underway.

Over the next six months, important initiatives will be operational, including the first 15 Medicare Locals, a new after-hours telephone based service and a new front end for aged care services.

Importantly, a new agreement on national health reform is to be signed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in July 2011.

This agreement will build on a Heads of Agreement (HoA) signed by all Australian governments on February 13, through which, governments agreed to work in partnership on national health reform to secure the long-term sustainability of Australia’s health system.

The HoA retains much of what was in the National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement but involves changes to some key aspects.

Further information on the HoA can be found at - What is national health reform?

Details of the national health reform agreement are currently being negotiated between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.

While this detail is being finalised, implementation activity continues. This edition of the National Health Reform Update provides a snapshot of some of the activities reached to date.

Feature articles include:

Consultation period on the national blueprint for e-health records extended

Consumers, clinicians, health professionals and the information and communication technology industry are being asked for their views on a national blueprint for e-health records.

The Draft Concept of Operations: Relating to the introduction of a personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system document, publicly released on the yourHealth website on12 April, describes how the PCEHR system will work, its structure, its benefits and importantly, its privacy principles.

The Draft Concept of Operations is a key building block in creating an e-health system for Australia’s future and intends to prompt further discussion on the design of the system and generate input into areas that require further discussion and development.

Submissions on the Draft Concept of Operations may be submitted at yourHealth website until midnight, Tuesday 7 June. The deadline was recently extended in response to the high level of interest in the document.

The development of the PCEHR system is an important step in the Australian Government’s implementation of a national e-health system which will drive improved health care safety, quality and efficiency.

From July 2012, Australians will be able to register to have a personally controlled electronic health record.

The e-health system will help to address the fragmentation of medical records that exist across a vast array of different systems—paper and electronic—with no single secure solution to share records.

The PCEHR system will be a secure online system that will allow individuals and their approved healthcare providers to access their health information where and when it is needed.

The PCEHR booklet, e-health - have your say, is also now available to the public. The booklet describes key elements of the PCEHR system, and the impact it will have on health care.

You can also find out more about the Concept of Operations process by reading the Con Ops Fact Sheet.

New Implementation Sites

The establishment and operation of e-health sites around Australia is an essential part of developing and implementing the national personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system.

Up to $55 million has been allocated to second-wave e-health sites, which will enable the progress of key elements of the national PCEHR system and provide for the delivery of e-health sites in practical settings.

The second-wave projects will expand on the work of the first-wave sites and exchange key health information between healthcare providers and specific consumer groups. The e-health sites will provide a foundation for secure electronic communications such as referrals and sharing of summary health information to support continuity of care between health care providers.

The e-health sites will run across all states and territories and target key groups such as parents with newborn children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Indigenous communities, people with complex and chronic diseases, and elderly Australians. These have been identified as priority groups for the take-up of the eHealth record.

More information about the lead implementation sites can be found at the e-health sites fact sheet.
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More health services for Australian families – new GP Super Clinics open their doors

GP Super Clinics are a key element in the Australian Government’s efforts to build a stronger national primary health care system and take pressure off hospitals.

The Government is investing in the construction of 64 GP Super Clinics to provide a greater focus on health promotion and illness prevention, and better coordination between GPs, allied health services, community health and other state and territory funded services.

Ten GP Super Clinics are fully open, including the Port Stephens GP Super Clinic, known as Nelson Plaza Clinic. Since May 2010, the team of five new GPs and the allied health professionals have been providing medical, psychology, diabetes education, dietetics, physiotherapy, podiatry and occupational therapy care to the local Port Stephens community – many of whom are older Australians.

The Port Stephens GP Super Clinic is part of a network of GP Super Clinics around the country which make it easier for health care providers to work together to deliver better health care, tailored to the needs and priorities of the local community.

In addition to the 10 GP Super Clinics currently operating nation-wide, another 10 are providing early services and a further 11 are under construction, with six of these due to open shortly.

For the latest information on GP Super Clinics go to GP Super Clinics Latest News. Information includes updates on the latest GP Super Clinic consultation sessions in regions where GP Super Clinics are planned, and Invitations to Apply documentation for GP Super Clinic funding.
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Primary Care Infrastructure Grants

The Australian Government is delivering improvements to frontline health services with the 2011-12 funding round for Primary Care Infrastructure Grants recently announced.

This $52.5 million funding round builds on the success of the 2010-11 grant round which announced approximately 240 grants in November last year and is an important part of the Government’s commitment to improve capacity in primary care through national health reform.

The Primary Care Infrastructure Grants program is improving the capacity of about 425 existing general practices, primary care and community health services and Aboriginal Medical Services nation-wide. A minimum of $41 million of available grant funding will go to services in regional and remote Australia.

Grant funding of up to $150,000, $300,000 and $500,000 for projects is available through the 2011-12 grant round, which opened on 16 April 2011 and closes on 10 June 2011.

For further information or a copy of the Guidelines and Invitation to Apply documentation please go to www.health.gov.au/tenders

Further information on the Primary Care Infrastructure Grants can be found at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/pacd-gpsuperclinics.
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Headway made on prevention initiatives

Early intervention and prevention as a way to take pressure off hospitals and other parts of the health system is an important element of national health reform.

Under national health reform, the Australian Government is investing $56 million in preventive health measures, which builds on the $872 million COAG National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health—the largest commitment to health promotion by an Australian government.

This investment will tackle the rise of chronic and preventable conditions through a range of initiatives to help people adopt a healthier lifestyle.

A number of important preventive health initiatives have already commenced. These include:

Australian National Preventive Health Agency

The Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) began operating on 1 January 2011. ANPHA is an important part of the Australian Government's national health reform efforts and will work closely with local primary health care organisations to reinvigorate preventive health efforts at the local level, ultimately reducing the burden of chronic health conditions on the health system.

The ANPHA is an independent statutory authority created to lead the fight against preventable diseases through preventive health initiatives targeting obesity, along with alcohol, tobacco and other substance abuse.

The ANPHA will assist in driving the prevention agenda, including by providing evidence-based advice to health Ministers; supporting the development of evidence and data on the state of preventive health in Australia and the effectiveness of preventive health interventions; and putting in place national guidelines and standards to guide preventive health activities.

On 1 January 2011, Dr Rhonda Galbally AO was appointed by the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, as the acting CEO of the ANPHA. Dr Galbally has extensive health and management experience, including as the inaugural CEO of VicHealth for 10 years during which time groundbreaking work was delivered in areas such as tobacco control, food and nutrition and exercise and activity.

On 16 February 2011, Minister Roxon encouraged people with preventive health expertise to register their interest in joining ANPHA’s Advisory Council.

The Advisory Council will consist of one member from the Australian Government, one or two members from state and territory governments, and between five and eight non-government experts. Members will be appointed by the Minister, after consultation with the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference.

The Minister will announce the appointment of Advisory Council members in mid-2011.
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Sampling our nation’s health

The Australian Health Survey, which commenced in March 2011, will see about one in every 400 Australians (approximately 50 000 people in total) interviewed on key lifestyle factors that affect their health, providing a better understanding of the health of people living in Australia.

Results from the survey will provide the community, health researchers and governments with important clues about health problems and emerging health issues. The results will be particularly important to preventive health outcomes—a key element of national health reform.

The information gained will assist governments to target health services and programs, to decide on policies and programs to help promote health and wellbeing and prevent illness, and to assess current policies. This will complement the Australian Government’s commitment of $872 million in preventive health initiatives and the recent establishment of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

Results of the first wave of the survey (conducted over 2011-12) will be available from October 2012. A sample group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be surveyed in a separate wave from March 2012, with results expected from October 2013.

More information on the Australian Health Survey is available at the Australian Bureau of Statistics website http://www.abs.gov.au/australianhealthsurvey.
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National Tobacco Campaign

The $61 million National Tobacco Campaign, launched in January 2011 is the largest national public education campaign on smoking to date. The campaign sends a simple message: Every cigarette you smoke brings cancer closer.

The Australian Government is investing $27.8 million from 2010 - 2014 in the complementary More Targeted Approach Campaign to help high need and hard to reach people who mainstream anti-tobacco campaigns do not necessarily reach.

Media advertising, public relations, community events and the development of targeted resources will be used to encourage these groups to give up smoking. These groups include people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, pregnant women and their partners, people living in socially disadvantaged areas, prisoners and people with mental illness.

Media activity for people living in disadvantaged areas commenced in January as part of the National Tobacco Campaign, and advertising for eight key culturally and linguistically diverse background groups commenced in February.

On 15 May 2011, new advertising aimed at pregnant women and their partners and additional groups from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, bringing the total to 29 language and cultural groups.

Further information on the campaign can be found at:
http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf
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National Indigenous Tobacco Campaign

In another national first, as part of the National Tobacco Campaign, the Australian Government has launched a specific campaign aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The new hard-hitting advertising campaign urges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to break the chain and quit smoking. The campaign hit the airwaves, newspapers and TV screens, in March, as the Australian Government continues world leading action to combat tobacco use.

Further information on the campaign can be found at: http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf/Content/ntc-break-the-chain

Live Longer!

The Minister for Indigenous Health, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, recently launched a new national campaign to address chronic disease risk factors and help extend the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Local Community Campaigns to Promote Better Health is a part of the Indigenous Chronic Disease Package. The Local Community Campaigns measure is a $21.3 million investment over four years to establish and run local community campaigns, which aim to deliver healthy lifestyle messages and close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.

Branded Live Longer!, Local Community Campaigns will involve a comprehensive program of tailored community campaigns and more than 60 Healthy Community Days, which will be held in urban, regional, rural and remote areas across the nation.

These events will promote healthy messages in a meaningful, practical way and be tailored to the health concerns and priorities of local communities, as well as being relevant to local culture. Activities may include sporting events, family focused activities, and education sessions on how lifestyle choices can help prevent chronic disease.

There is up to $17 million in funding available in grants for the Local Community Campaigns from 2011 – 2013. Phase 1 of the grants program commenced in March 2011, with more than 80 organisations invited to apply for funding through a targeted process. Applications for Phase 1 closed on 29 April 2011.

Organisations targeted in Phase 1 included those identified through a stakeholder engagement process as having the immediate capacity, experience and community influence to undertake a Local Community Campaign. Phase 2 will be an open, competitive grants round, advertised nationally in May 2011 and open from 13 June to 30 September 2011.

Guidelines for the Local Community Campaigns to Promote Better Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health programs are now publicly available.

The Government has also employed Tackling Smoking and Healthy Lifestyle workers in 20 regions across Australia who will visit these communities to promote preventive health messages.

Further information on Local Community Campaigns can be found at: http://livelonger.health.gov.au/

Tobacco Plain Packaging

In a world first, the Australian Government is legislating to mandate the plain packaging of tobacco products to reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers, particularly young people, and to contribute to efforts to reduce smoking rates.

To ensure full stakeholder and community engagement in this initiative, the exposure draft of the Draft Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Consultation Paper were released for public comment on 7 April 2011. Interested parties and individuals are invited to provide written submissions to the Department by 6 June 2011.

The tobacco plain packaging legislation is set to be debated in the winter sitting of Parliament. The Australian Government anticipates the legislation will commence from 1 January 2012, with all products on sale required to comply with the new laws within six months.

Further information on how to provide a submission can be found at: http://www.yourhealth.gov.au/internet/yourhealth/publishing.nsf/content/plainpack-tobacco
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Aged Care Implementation Update

Building a nationally consistent aged system

The Australian Government is investing $36.8 million to make it easier for older Australians, their families and carers to access aged care services and information.

From 1 July 2011 there will be a new national telephone number providing information about aged care services which will consolidate the existing range of 1800 numbers. This will tackle one of the main concerns of older Australians about where to go to access aged care services by providing an obvious first point of entry for aged care services and information.

Improvements will also be made to the aged care website for the growing number of people who like to find their information online.

As part of national health reform, the Australian Government is taking full policy and funding responsibility for aged care services from July 2011. This shift in responsibilities will provide the platform for a nationally consistent health and aged care system, covering the full range of health and aged care services from basic home care through to nursing homes. The Western Australian and Victorian governments will maintain existing arrangements for Home and Community Care (HACC) services. However, negotiations are continuing between these governments and the Australian Government on future arrangements.

Extensive national consultation on these changes to aged care is being undertaken in the lead up to implementation in July. Regional consultations commenced in April and will continue throughout May and June. The regional consultation schedule is available on the yourHealth website and will continue to be updated as further dates and locations are confirmed.
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Building a better aged care complaints scheme—Protecting aged care consumers

The Australian Government is strengthening the Aged Care Complaints Scheme (the Scheme) to improve and protect the safety and wellbeing of older Australians receiving Australian Government funded residential and community aged care services.

The Scheme provides older Australians, their families and the community with an avenue to raise their concerns about the care they or their loved ones are receiving.

The Scheme was designed to strengthen the ability of the Department of Health and Ageing to investigate concerns and where necessary take action to ensure aged care providers meet their responsibilities under the Aged Care Act 1997.

While the Scheme has the ability to broker the resolution of complaints through conciliation, in practice conciliation has not routinely been utilised to resolve complaints.

The Government’s reforms to the Scheme are the result of an independent review of its operations conducted by Associate Professor Merrilyn Walton in 2009.

Professor Walton’s report, the Walton Review, made a range of recommendations to improve the operation, timeliness and transparency of the Scheme.

The Government’s $50.6 million reforms to the Scheme will deliver improved complaints handling processes; increased options to resolve complaints; improved communication with aged care consumers and the industry; and additional resources to reduce case loads.

Reforms to the Scheme have been progressively implemented since July 2010 and include: Top of page

Aged care complaints scheme blog launched

The Aged Care Complaints Scheme blog was also recently launched.

The blog aims to keep aged care consumers, providers and stakeholders up-to-date on reform implementation and provide accessible information about the complaints process.

The blog also provides an avenue to the public to provide feedback on how to improve the Scheme’s service. You can visit the blog at www.agedcarecomplaints.govspace.gov.au

More consumer directed care packages and consumer directed respite care places

An additional 500 Consumer Directed Care Packages and 200 Consumer Directed Respite Care places were advertised nationally in April.

This initiative will fund selected community aged care providers to deliver innovative service models that will provide care recipients and their carers with greater control over the design and delivery of the care and services they receive.

Consumer directed care has been shown to improve the quality of life and independence of care recipients.

The places recently advertised build on the 500 Consumer Directed Care packaged places and 200 Consumer Directed Respite Care places released in 2010 and allocated nationally in July 2010.

An announcement of successful applications and allocation of places in the current round is expected to be made by end June 2011.
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Page last updated 01 June, 2011