If the Coalition gets into office, what could Australia’s health system look like?

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What could the health system look like if the Coalition was in power?

What could the health system look like if the Coalition was in power?

With an election pending, there has been a lot of noise from the Opposition about potential policies and reforms. In a parallel universe, what would the Australian health system look like if the Coalition was in power?

Recent proposals  from the Federal Opposition include cutting funding from current Labor health reforms including…

  • Medicare Locals
  • GP infrastructure to upgrade primary care facilities 
  • A national e-health system
  • 24 hour GP phone helpline grants

…and using this cash to roll out a $1.5 billion plan to improve mental health services, including:

  • 20 new early psychosis intervention and prevention centres 
  • 60 additional Headspace sites for young people with mental illness  
  • 800 early intervention beds
The Coalition also announced a $35 million grant towards the establishment of a Clinical Trials Network for diabetes. This supplements the $5 million that former PM Kevin Rudd announced back in March.

Whilst Tony Abbott claims Labor has been inactive in mental health reform, Nicola Roxon was quick to hit back against the proposals, saying national hospital and health reforms will be at risk if Labor is voted out of office

“It’s very important we do not neglect mental health and one of the disappointing aspects of the Government’s health reform proposals is that there’s been so little on mental health.”

Tony Abbott

 “The Coalition’s policy is undermined by the fact it is funded by cutting Labor’s health reforms, such as GP super clinics and e-health.”

Nicola Roxon

What are the stakeholders saying?

The AMA is currently sitting on the sidelines and waiting for further updates on what funding would be left for GPs, whilst the Mental Health Foundation of Australia expects the Federal Government to announce its own mental health reforms in the near future.

Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry, has called on the Federal Government bring physical and mental health together under a new mental health plan, whilst speaking at the National Press Club last week.  

The Coalition said last week they would unveil their primary care policy before the election, in response to concerns about how much (if any) funding would remain for primary care.

With a few months to go until an election, there is plenty of time for further announcements, proposed reforms and complete u-turns, so watch this space!

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Do we really care about self-care?

Do We Really Care About Self-Care?

Do We Really Care About Self-Care?

Ssshhhh – listen carefully and you’ll undoubtedly hear a lot of noise in Australia right now about ‘self-care’ and ‘preventative health’.

The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) recently released a Position Paper entitled ‘Increasing Access to Medicines to Enhance Self Care’, calling for Government and other stakeholders to make increased access to medicines a “fundamental plank of the emerging health policy landscape” as well as a more patient-centred approach to primary care – so all Australians can take greater control of managing own health where appropriate.

Encouragingly, the Minister for Health & Aging Nicola Roxon has been particularly vocal on the topic of self-care. She’s highlighted the need for industry and key organisations to drive change in preventative health, with reference to the Australian Preventative Health Legislation currently before the parliament and the draft National Primary Health Care Strategy.

Earlier this month, Ms Roxon attended ASMI’s annual conference and reiterated the Rudd Government’s commitment to ensuring Australians have the “support mechanisms” – such as access to medicines and services – to take better control of their own health. She also talked about the need for greater investment in “health literacy”.  (Worryingly, half of the Australian population is deemed illiterate within this context).

Nobody can argue there is much conversation, documentation and debate which is a definite step in the right direction. But when are we going to get some action and see policies become practice?

As Ms Roxon rightly reiterated, “good health requires individual and collective action”.

Speakers at the ASMI conference represented pharmaceutical companies, industry bodies and academia. All communicated a variety of views but they fundamentally agreed an evolution of Australia’s healthcare system, rather than a revolution, is what’s needed to achieve our self-care aims.

The right tools are in the self-care toolbox; we only need to tweak the way we deploy them. For example, a recent study revealed shifting treatment of the most frequent minor ailments from doctors to pharmacists would free up between 3 and 7 per cent of Australia’s GP workforce.

Do we care about self-care? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Now all stakeholders need to turn talk into tactics; only then can we all really believe the decision makers practice what they preach.

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