National Health Reform Update

09 Sep 2011Health reform update

It is an exciting time for national health reform implementation as many new initiatives start to become operational. Legislation to enable the establishment of new national bodies to drive improved standards and performance across the health system is now before Parliament; and Australia’s first Medicare Locals have commenced work.

Significantly, a new agreement on national health reform was agreed by all governments on 2 August. The National Health Reform Agreement cements the commitment made by all governments at the 13 February Council of Australian Governments’ meeting, to work together to reform the health system to ensure its future sustainability. Under the agreement, the Commonwealth, states and territories have agreed to major reforms to the organisation, funding and delivery of health and aged care.

To assist stakeholders and the public in understanding details of the agreement, the Department of Health and Ageing has been conducting a series of national health reform briefings around the country. The briefings have been well attended and question and answer sessions from these engagements will soon be published on the yourHealth website.

Earlier this week, on 7 September, the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, released an implementation plan outlining the major milestones and timelines for implementing national health reform.

National Health Reform: Progress and Delivery also provides a comprehensive update on progress that has been made so far in implementing health reform initiatives.

This edition of the National Health Reform Update provides a snapshot of recent health reform activities.

Feature articles include:

New national bodies set to drive improved standards and performance

There have been significant advances in establishing new national bodies to drive improved standards and greater performance across the health sector.

Legislation to establish the National Health Performance Authority (NHPA) is currently before the Senate, and legislation to establish the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament on 24 August.

The IHPA will determine the efficient price of hospital services under a new model of hospital funding—activity based funding—and is expected to commence in early 2012.

The Australian Government and state and territory governments have agreed to establish an interim body to progress critical elements of activity based funding, while Parliament considers the legislation.

The Interim IHPA commenced on 1 September and Dr Tony Sherbon was appointed its acting Chief Executive Officer on the same day.

On 19 August, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to the appointment of Mr Shane Solomon as the IHPA’s Chair, and Mr Jim Birch as its Deputy Chair.

The NHPA’s Chair and Deputy Chair were also announced at this time by the Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, and Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP. Ms Patricia Faulkner AO will be the Chair, and Mr John Walsh the Deputy Chair, once the NHPA is established.

The NHPA will operate independently of the Australian Government and state and territory governments. The NHPA will provide transparent quarterly reporting on the performance of every Local Hospital Network, the hospitals within it, every private hospital and every Medicare Local, through the new Hospital Performance Reports and Healthy Communities Reports.

These advances build on the launch of the MyHospitals website, live since December last year, and the establishment of Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care as a permanent body on 1 July this year.

The Commission will play an important role in developing, implementing and monitoring National Clinical Safety and Quality standards. The MyHospitals website provides increased transparency on hospital performance by making it possible to compare a hospital’s performance against the national average.

National Casemix and Activity Based Funding Conference

"National Health Reform – Implementing Activity Based Funding for Australia’s Public Hospitals" is the theme of this year’s National Casemix and Activity Based Funding Conference, being held at the Gold Coast from 3-7 October 2011.

This biennial event is the premier national conference offering stakeholders an opportunity to hear about and discuss key international and national developments in casemix/activity based funding.

This year’s conference will explore central elements of Australia’s activity based funding framework being implemented as part of national health reform.

The conference brings together experts and academics with practitioners and policy professionals, senior Commonwealth and state and territory public servants and representatives from peak bodies.

Keynote speakers will offer international perspectives on the casemix/activity based funding models. Speakers include Dr Qin Jiang, Deputy Director of Research Centre for Medical Classification, Coding and Payment System, Ministry of Health of China, who will speak on the casemix experience in China and Douglas Yeo, Director of Methodologies and Specialised Care, Canadian Institute of Health Information.

Conference topics encompass:

National conversations on ageing

The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, the Hon Mark Butler MP, is currently visiting capital cities and regional towns across Australia to listen to the views of older Australians, their families and carers on building an aged care system that supports positive ageing.

Minister Butler’s ‘Conversations on Ageing’ provide an avenue for community response to recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s Final Report Caring for Older Australians, as well as ideas for positive and healthy ageing.

The Productivity Commission’s report, released on 8 August 2011, contains an analysis of the aged care sector and recommends an integrated package of reforms for the future of aged care in Australia.

The Australian Government has indicated that the Commission’s recommendations will be considered as part of its broader ageing agenda.

In formulating its response, the Government will be guided by four overarching principles.

Further information on Minister Butler’s ‘Conversations on Ageing’ is available on the Minister’s blog at

First Medicare Locals showcase innovation

Leaders from Australia’s first 19 Medicare Locals met recently in Canberra to discuss the next steps forward in the implementation of the new primary health care organisations known as Medicare Locals.

The Medicare Locals Forum, held in Canberra on 25 and 26 August, also provided participants with an opportunity to showcase the preliminary work underway since their commencement on 1 July this year.

On the first day of the forum, the Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, and the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, joined participants to hear the innovative ways Medicare Locals will tackle health care needs at a local level.

Medicare Locals are a key component of the Australian Government’s national health reform efforts to deliver better integrated and coordinated health care services, making it easier for patients to navigate the health system.

A range of initiatives were showcased at the forum, including the role of eHealth in the management of chronic disease, how Medicare Locals will support General Practitioners and other practitioners across the spectrum of primary health care and how Medicare Locals will lead the innovation of regional primary health care reform.

A short video was also shown highlighting real examples from three Medicare Locals of services that Medicare Locals will support. These services include Closing the Gap services in Western Sydney and increasing access to mental health services in Geelong.

The second day of the forum provided an opportunity for the Department of Health and Ageing to provide information and support to this first group of Medicare Locals.

Profile: Western Sydney Medicare Local

Western Sydney is a region of high health need, with a rapidly expanding and ageing population. Levels of chronic and complex disease are high and the region includes large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Over the coming months, key activities for the Western Sydney Medicare Local will include:

WentWest Limited, a high performing Division of General Practice, was selected to establish this Medicare Local. The organisation is a national partner in the development and roll-out of eHealth patient records, and works closely with the Sydney University Department of General Practice at Westmead and the University of Western Sydney in vertical integrated teaching for primary care disciplines.

The Western Sydney Medicare Local will continue to deliver a range of preventive health and physical activity programs, such as the Prevention in Primary Health Care Program and the Session for Health and Physical Exercise (SHAPE) program.

Western Sydney Medicare Local held its first community forum in July this year to gain input and advice from a broad range of health professionals and community groups on community priorities and health needs of the region.

Community projects to reduce risky drinking

A key element of national health reform is early intervention and prevention to take pressure off other parts of the health system.

As part of the Australian Government’s focus on preventive health, communities around the country are invited to share in up to $10 million for projects to reduce risky alcohol consumption amongst young Australians between 12-24 years of age.

Grants of $300,000 are available for individual projects by incorporated community groups or local government organisations, and up to $500,000 for proposals from partnerships.

This round of grants builds on 38 innovative, community-led projects already funded as part of the Australian Government’s Community Level Initiative of the National Binge Drinking Strategy.

The Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) will manage this third round of grants.

As well as managing a number of community-driven preventive health initiatives, ANPHA has responsibility for providing evidence-based advice to Health Ministers; supporting the development of evidence and data on the state of preventive health in Australia; and putting in place national guidelines and standards to guide preventive health activities.

Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, recently announced $5.77 million worth of research funding available under ANPHA’s new National Preventive Health Research Grants Program to investigate new and innovative ways to combat alcohol abuse, obesity and tobacco smoking.

Applications for the Preventive Health Research Grants close on 30 September 2011, and applications for Community Projects to Prevent and Reduce Binge Drinking close 28 October 2011.

Further information about these grants can be found on the Australian National Preventive Health Agency website.

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Page last updated 09 September, 2011