2021 Budget insights from leading health policy expert

About 70 representatives from the WA health and social services sectors gathered at our recent Better Heath, Together Forum to enjoy an insightful analysis of the recent federal budget delivered by Grattan Institute Fellow, Professor Hal Swerissen.

With a budget that he noted promised little in the way of primary care structural reform,  Professor Swerissen was nonetheless optimistic about mental health funding commitments, notably in prevention but also in community based treatment delivered by the emerging adult mental health centres and the youth focused headspace program.

Telehealth was singled out as another promising area, particularly for people living in rural and remote areas, but also for those with home or community-based care needs.


Professor Swerissen described a future scenario where a video call made from the GP’s office will allow a secondary consultation including specialist clinicians to take place, with obvious clinical benefits, and convenience for the patient.

He also talked about an increasing focus on the consumer, signalled by the expansion of care navigator roles in the aged care sector to ensure person-centred care so the consumer gets what they need.

Professor Swerissen highlighted opportunities for PHNs as local commissioners, the importance of joint regional planning with state health systems and the maturing of PHNs and the Commonwealth appreciation of their importance.

“The COVID experience has demonstrated to the Commonwealth that coordination through Primary Health Networks has been very important to deliver on a range of challenging issues,” Professor Swerissen said.

This has included setting up GP Respiratory Clinics, distributing PPE, and, for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, managing the expression of interest process for general practices to participate in the program and residential aged care facility vaccinations for residents.

He acknowledged the opportunities for WA in having three PHNs working as one, under the WA Primary Health Alliance banner.

“Isolation is a plus for WA as it gives it an opportunity to do things that are self-contained. WA Primary Health Alliance has an innovative model, while in many other states, PHNs are still relatively separate from each other,” Professor Swerissen said.

If you are interested in finding out more about our Better Health, Together Forum or registering to be notified of future Forums, visit Primary Health Exchange.

Professor Swerissen is a leader in policy, management and program development, particularly in the the analysis, evaluation and quality improvement in health, community services and tertiary education. As well as being a Fellow at the Grattan Institute, he is also an Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University, a Director of Murray PHN and a Director of the Bendigo Kangan Institute.