A comprehensive national strategy including an independent body that can integrate Australia’s fragmented health services must underpin the federal government’s response to the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (NHHRC) report.
BCA Chief Executive Katie Lahey said that the federal government’s response to the report should ensure that money spent reforming the health system would deliver clear health benefits and support higher productivity growth in the years ahead.
“We welcome the government’s announcement today that it will conduct a six-month Treasury review of the report’s findings, including a consultation process, before taking its response to a meeting of COAG later this year,” Ms Lahey said.
“As the BCA highlighted in its paper Fit for the Job earlier this year, we must address our health challenges in a systemic way now or businesses will increasingly struggle to maintain skilled, productive workforces in the decades ahead.
“But we cannot just throw more money at the problem or assume federal control of health services will deliver better results. We need a systematic approach to a long-term reform process, underpinned by a comprehensive national strategy.
“A comprehensive approach should include a new independent health body that can break the current impasse and seamlessly provide for patient needs, boost efficiency and drive the reforms required to meet the needs of the future,” Ms Lahey said.
Ms Lahey said the report was detailed and would take time to examine further, but it was clear it had highlighted the importance of urgent major reform in health to maintain social and economic prosperity.
“We would urge the government to consult beyond the health sector and to note the NHHRC’s own words – health is everybody’s business. Given the economic importance of health, the business sector wants to be part of that consultation,” she said.
“A preliminary assessment is that the report contains many sensible suggestions for more connected care and for redesign of the system to meet changing needs.
“We welcome the commitment to e-health as a transforming strategy, and we are heartened by the commitment to greater value for money in the medium to long term.
“Our greatest disappointment, however, is that the proposed governance arrangements and the continued plethora of proposed bodies do not, in our view, augur well for a systematic approach to a long-term reform process.
“Nor are we encouraged that a comprehensive national health strategy and funding process will emerge from this.”
Ms Lahey said a comprehensive approach to reforming the health system would ensure the system contains demand, improves productivity and is fit for purpose.
Fit for the Job highlighted such a systemic approach would include:
- A focus on preventing health problems, especially chronic ones, from occurring in the first place.
- Delivering better value for health service users.
- Providing an acceptable level of care no matter where patients are in Australia, from the inner city to the outback.
- Better patient safety, with fewer medical accidents.
- Accountability for results.
- Measurement of results, so that we can find out how to do things better and cheaper and then publicise the results throughout the system.