Senator Fiona Nash Opening Speech at APCC Wave 10

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Welcome to participants at the Australian Primary Care Collaboratives Program Cardiovascular and Chronic Kidney Disease workshop, 15 March 2014, Sydney.

Senator Fiona Nash, Senator for New South Wales, Assistant Minister for Health, Deputy Leader for the Nationals in the Senate.

Thank you for the very kind introduction and thank you very much for the opportunity to join you at the Australian Primary Care Collaborative Program workshop. I am delighted to be here this morning, representing the Prime Minister. And can I firstly just say to those of you who made the time to meet with me before we started the meeting this morning; I found it extremely useful and look forward to your ongoing association.

I am in illustrious company here today; I am told the attendees here include clinical champions from across the country, with the progress in the area of cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease, more than 150 general practitioners and other primary health care professionals, including Medicare Local Program managers. You know the importance of primary care in the Australian health system and more specifically the need to be continuously improving.

The coalition has been a long-time supporter of the Australian Primary Care Collaborative Program.  We introduced it; the then Minister of Health, Tony Abbott, Health and Ageing, Tony Abbott launched it in 2004.  We strengthened it, again Mr Abbott expanded the Program in 2007 to enable hundreds more GPs, participating to better treat the specific people with, or at risk of, chronic disease.  And we continue to fund it, with the current funding for a period of 3 years, from July 2012 to June 2015 of nearly 15 million dollars.

Today, the Australian Primary Care Collaborative Program is a highly successful mission, making a real difference to people’s quality of life through a pursuit of excellence and continued improvement.  Since the launch, the Program has improved in the care of hundreds of thousands of patients with a chronic disease.  At the same time, it has empowered more than 1,300 general practices, Indigenous health services and other primary care health care services to improve how they work.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Tony Abbott’s original initiative has helped transform the Australian primary health care sector.  It has made a particular difference for many people living with diabetes.

The Australian Primary Care Collaborative Program has made some significant achievements: 1,300 general practitioners, Aboriginal Medical Services and primary health care services, making up approximately 18% of all general practices and health services in this country, and working towards improving health outcomes for more than 210,000 Australians with coronary heart disease, 320,000 Australians with diabetes. More than 3,000 primary health care professionals, including GPs, practice nurses and Aboriginal health workers have been trained to use quality improvement methods to improve patient care.  More than 50 Medicare Locals, in our division of general practice are involved in the Program.

Improved primary care is a key part of Coalition’s policy to support Australia’s health system. Our pledge is to rebuild primary care, specifically through our teaching, training and education initiatives for GPs, nurses and allied health professionals.  A clinical priority is diabetes prevention and management.

The Australian Primary Care Collaborative Program encourages and supports primary health care services across Australia in delivering improvement in the care they provide to patients. Improvements that are rapid, measurable, systematic and sustainable. It does so through the sound understanding and effective application of quality improvement methods and services.

The Program currently includes the following topics; as you all know coronary heart disease, diabetes prevention management, access and care and redesign, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic disease prevention and self-management, closing the gap and e-health, all our priorities in primary care in Australia, all the priorities of this Program, and all our priorities for the Australian government.  Data, measurement, and reporting are a fundamental part of the Australian primary care collaborative Program methodology.

The measurement framework has been extended to include a number of quality indicators that measure improvements in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  This will be a huge help in tackling, what is still this nation’s most confronting health challenge, Indigenous health.  And having just been on tour across the Northern Territory, Western Australia and top of Queensland, I gather this is indeed still the case.

The Program’s been the stable, national Program for nine years and continues to be highly regarded by supporting organisations and primary care health services.  By continuing to implement national Collaborative waves, the government is sending a strong message to health professionals about the central role of continuous quality improvement in primary health care.

The national Collaborative waves have a valuable role for implementing new topics in the Program.  The national approach enables engagement in the topic more broadly and supports the development of exemplars that can have a role in the future implementation.  The collaborative wave activity achieves a number of outcomes, reducing unwarranted variation in chronic disease management and improving health outcomes, engagement with support organisations in measurable, continuous quality improvement and building capability through exposing support organisations to methods, tools, resources and access to infrastructure so that continuous quality improvement becomes their natural way of doing things.

The health minister, Peter Dutton has recently initiated a national conversation about the future direction of the nation’s health system.  With cost of the MBS up to 124% in the past decade, the PBS up 90% and hospital costs up 83%, our spiralling health bill offers no prospect of meeting the health needs of the 21st century Australia, unless we start building sustainability in to the system.

Minister Dutton has highlighted how unprecedented costs and other pressures, meaning our 1980’s model health system is tracking on an unsustainable path. Improved primary care is a key to unlocking real efficiencies in the system by containing costs, ensuring accessibility, managing chronic disease, focusing on preventive health, helping to ease pressure on hospital system, delivering innovative aged care programs, and achieving and maintaining a sustainable system.

In continuing to provide national quality improvement, the Australian Primary Care Collaborative Program has an important role to play in this, with benefits in the system to the health workforce and fundamentally to patients. All patients, including those in rural and regional Australia and indigenous Australians, it is time to bridge the divide, city, country, indigenous and non-indigenous alike.  And the Australian Primary Care Collaborative Program can help us do it.

Thank you very much for having me here today and I wish you well in your endeavours over the time you’re here.

April 28, 2014

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