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Budget 2018: Health budget includes welcome consumer focus

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Health budget includes welcome consumer focus


Record funding for hospitals from 2020 and a $5 billion rise for aged care are contained in a

Federal Budget which also provides for more consumer-focused approaches to care and


Hospital funding will include $100 million for innovation in providing hospital services aimed

at bringing down avoidable admissions, including through better coordinated primary and

transitional care.

“This is a welcome measure that will leverage co-investment from the states and

recognises that hospital reform must be about so much more than simply investing in more

beds,” Leanne Wells, the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, said.

“The scope to look at models of care that involve specialist hospital providers working in

innovative ways outside of the hospital walls and better integrating with primary and

community health services is an exciting, patient-friendly prospect that should be actively

pursued with this funding.

“We also welcome greater consumer focus in the sharply increased medical research

funding which will include $150.4 million over four years from the Medical Research Future

Fund to support better translation of research into better patient care.

“It is appropriate that this measure includes a pledge that consumers will have a role in

helping to identify research priorities, a move we have supported for some years. We

welcome that research focus as it is likely to mean that Australians can benefit more quickly

from research which can be translated into more effective treatment and better care,’’ Ms

Wells said.

“We also welcome the commitment to explore consumer-driven research - so often

research is investigator driven when there are benefits to be gained in health system

research agendas that are co-designed by clinicians, consumers and researchers.

“In aged care, the provision of 20,000 more high level home care packages for older people

to remain in their own homes and receive the support services they require is a step in the

right direction that will go some way to meet the expanding demand for home-based care,”

“People want to remain in their own homes and prefer home care. Add to that the fact that

it is often more cost-effective for the individual and for government and it makes good

sense to increase the number of places.

“Poor health literacy and difficulty understanding the health and aged care system can be a

major barrier to access for many older Australians. Bolstering the home care packages with

navigators helps ensure older Australians living at home get maximum benefit out of other

supports available to them in the community.


“Change is constant in health care and we are seeing the consequences of this with

changes to payments for different services flowing from the Medicare Benefits Schedule

review. This will mean new payments for some diagnostic services while others will no

longer be eligible for Medicare benefits.

“The review is identifying areas of unmet need for evidence-based new therapies while

delisting those therapies for which there is insufficient evidence.

“There will be increases in funding for mental health services. We particularly welcome the

support for the critical services provided by Lifeline and to better support people discharged

from hospital after a suicide attempt. That this funding will be directed through Primary

Health Networks to implement will ensure integration with the work PHNs are doing on

mental health stepped care.

“Attention to promoting good infant and maternal health is long overdue. This Budget

contains a raft of measures designed to address this, including significant measures such

as $241m for the spinal muscular atrophy drug Spinraza for the infants and the additional

funding to make whooping cough immunisations available for pregnant women.

“While the additional funding for hospitals, Medicare, aged care and medicines is welcome,

there is a strong case for greater emphasis on primary health care that focuses on local

health services to respond to local need for integrated care, particularly for chronic illness.

“There are some very good down payments such as the Workforce Incentive Program that

will enable general practices in all locations to strengthen team-based multi-disciplinary

primary care by employed non-dispensing pharmacists and allied health providers.

However longer-term primary health care reforms must remain on the radar as part of

keeping Medicare up to date. We remain concerned about people’s ability to access the

care they need because of expense as demonstrated by our recent Out of Pocket Pain


“We are disappointed that the Government has not taken up the many calls for a national

obesity strategy. This is the number one preventable public health challenge for Australia.

“A comprehensive obesity strategy should include curbs on the exposure of children under

16 to promotion of unhealthy food and drink marketing, strengthen the healthy food star

rating system and fund a comprehensive national plan to promote routine physical activity

and public transport use,” Ms Wells said.