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Consumer Commission to seek lessons from COVID-19 to drive a better health system

Consumer Commission to seek lessons from COVID-19 to drive a better health system

25 June, 2020

The Consumers Health Forum is establishing a Consumer Commission to take forward the lessons the COVID-19 experience offers for a better and more consumer-focused health system.

The demands COVID-19 imposed on health care have triggered fresh impetus for system reforms.

CHF’s mission is to draw on consumer and community knowledge and experience to help shape innovation and improvements to the Australian health and human services system.

We will work with the Consumer Commission and our members to ensure that proposals for change are developed in the best interests of all Australians, the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“There is no shortage of ideas for reforms flowing from Australia’s experience with COVID-19.

“That potential has been amply demonstrated in a new report by Dr Stephen Duckett of the Grattan Institute. This has presented a timely agenda of reforms that the COVID-19 era has shown as possible and worthwhile to continue developing into the future, such as telehealth, state and federal health cooperation or more systematic approaches to elective surgery waiting lists.

“The Consumer Commission can ensure consumer participation in designing the changes ahead.

“Many consumers have their own stories about what changes worked for them and what didn’t. The report says the experience of health care during the pandemic ‘highlights the issues Australia needs to tackle for a more effective, efficient, and equitable health system’.

“In his report, Coming out of COVID-19 lockdown: the next steps for Australian health care, Dr Duckett identifies seven lessons from the health system’s response to COVID-19 which he says should be incorporated into “a new normal”

“These include expanding hospital-in-the-home, encouraging outreach and telehealth with new primary care funding models, and building better on-the-ground coordination of health services through Primary Health Networks.

“We welcome the call by Dr Duckett that federal, state and territory government should establish participatory processes for transition to the new normal and that ‘whatever the structure, there should be opportunities for consumers and professionals to be involved’.

“CHF is seeking 20-30 consumer leaders whose experience with coronavirus has given them ideas for improvement to join a series of online workshops to develop ideas for a better health and social care system. For details go to Consumer Commission.

“The Consumer Commission will be asked to focus on ideas that ensure that the post-pandemic policies uphold equity of access to health and to social care at a time of likely economic hardship.

“As Dr Duckett says, planning for the transition is as important as the planning during the initial wave of the pandemic. Without good planning for the transition, we risk a second wave and we risk not benefiting from the health system changes that occurred during the pandemic. ‘That would be another tragedy on top of the trauma caused by the pandemic itself.’

“His suggestions include Introducing new general practice telehealth items to replace the pandemic ones, limited to patients with an established relationship to a practice, and in the case of people aged 70 plus, to the practice in which the patient is enrolled.

“Other ideas for change include email consultation standards, specialist telehealth consultations with GPs, with or without the patient present.

“The many other ideas range from public-private hospital coordination to reduce elective waiting lists, multidisciplinary teams to prepare care paths that ensure nonmedical treatments are considered and expansion of in home care, and a rethink of hospital building project.

“The report says the ‘new normal’ will not just happen. Decisions need to be taken about what stays and in what form, lest all the good changes be eroded by a drift back to the old, inadequate ways.”

“CHF believes that the Consumer Commission will be well placed to advise on how we can press ahead with the ‘new normal’ for the betterment of health and social care in Australia,” Ms Wells said.

END of media release

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