Australian Government response to Review of cardiovascular disease programs

The national health reform agenda - implications for CVD

Page last updated: April 2011

The Australian Government is investing an additional $7.8 billion over the period 2010-2014 for fundamental reform of the health system. These far-reaching national health reforms will ensure that we can provide affordable and accessible health care for all Australians, and cope with the demands of the future.

The reforms are designed to significantly improve and modernise Australia's health system through reform to governance and financing arrangements. Performance and accountability measures will be implemented to ensure continuous improvement, and an increased focus on primary health care and immediate investments in infrastructure aim to alleviate pressure on the public hospital system.

Structural reform will change the way health services are delivered through better access to high quality, integrated care designed around the needs of the patient and a greater focus on prevention, early intervention and the provision of care outside of hospital, where and when people need it.

Additionally, there will be a focus on delivery of services to meet local needs. Responsibility for hospital management will be devolved to Local Hospital Networks, giving communities and clinicians a greater say in how hospitals are run. Local Hospital Networks will work closely with Medicare Locals and new aged care information and assessment services to deliver better integration and smoother transitions for patients across the entire health system.

To ensure local clinicians have a say in how hospitals are run the government is establishing Lead Clinicians Groups. The Lead Clinicians Groups measure recognises the role of clinical leadership and expertise in delivering safer and higher quality health care, to the benefit of patients and their families. The establishment of Lead Clinicians Groups will, where feasible, build upon and complement current state and territory initiatives in the area of clinical engagement. Clinical leadership and engagement is an essential part of a well integrated and functioning health system and these groups will work closely with Medicare Locals and Local Hospital Networks.

The government will pay 50 per cent of the efficient costs of growth for hospital services provided to public patients. This will be done in two stages, increasing to 45 per cent in 2014-15 and to 50 per cent in 2017-18. This funding will be provided on an activity basis, funding hospitals for the services they actually provide.

Through Activity Based Funding the government will reward public hospitals for treating more patients more efficiently, ensuring quicker access to elective surgery and emergency department care. This is a major transformation in national funding for public hospitals that will yield improvements in access to care.

To drive improvement in the quality of care and transparency around the performance of health services through the new Performance and Accountability Framework, the National Performance Authority (NPA) will develop and produce Hospitals Performance Reports and Healthy Communities Reports (on primary health care performance). These reports will help Australians make more informed choices about their health services, and help ensure the standard of care patients receive continues to improve. This framework will be used over time to improve performance across hospital, GP and primary health care services.

The government is also making immediate investments in improved access to care, increasing availability of care that is currently in short supply. The government is funding 1,300 extra sub-acute beds to improve access to palliative care, rehabilitation and mental health services.

The government is also continuing to deliver major initiatives to improve elective surgery and emergency departments, by building new operating theatres and emergency department beds. New services are also being established to reduce the pressure on emergency departments, by providing people with prompter access to care in the community. One such initiative is an after-hours GP telephone advice service, which will make it easier to talk to a doctor after hours. From 1 July 2011, this service will provide medical advice over the phone after-hours from a registered nurse, and if necessary, a GP. The service will make it easier for people to get advice on urgent medical conditions and be given advice on the best course of action.

These major reforms will deliver better health and hospital services. The changes to the funding arrangements will provide a secure funding base for health and hospital services into the future. The new governance arrangements will improve the responsiveness of the system to local needs, enhance the quality of services and allow greater transparency. The reforms will drive improved health outcomes for all Australians, including improvements to the prevention and management of specific conditions that affect many Australians such as CVD.