Priorities, the year ahead

By Chris Kane, General Manager – Strategy and Engagement 

The Australia wide PHN program is evolving, as is WA Primary Heath Alliance’s (WAPHA) role as the operator of WA’s three PHNs. This maturity has been evident in our impact, innovation, and progress in driving integration across WA’s health system last year.

2022 will see WAPHA continue to focus on our strategic priorities and our vision of a more connected primary health care system – a system that minimises barriers to accessing primary health care and ensures those with the greatest health needs are cared for as close to home as possible.

At the heart of WAPHA’s mission is an ongoing commitment to working with communities, primary health care providers and our partners across the health system in Western Australia. We are united in working in partnership towards a more connected and collaborative primary health care system that will improve health equity and health outcomes for all Western Australians.

COVID-19 response

COVID-19 has presented significant challenges to members of our communities and to primary health care services and providers over the past two years.  WAPHA has been proactive and innovative in our response to Australian Government requirements for PHNs to lead in pandemic planning and management with the primary health care sector.  WAPHA’s Vision of better health, together and our strategic priorities will continue to guide our Living With COVID-19 strategy for WA. Our partnerships with GPs, our commissioned service providers, WA Department of Health, Health Service Providers, the WA Mental Health Commission, Aboriginal Medical Services and peak representative organisations will strengthen our approach to integrating health services specific to the COVID-19 context – removing duplication and filling the primary health care gaps for those people who are already at risk of adverse health outcomes.

Joint regional planning and national representation

Strengthening joint regional planning, an Australian Government focus for PHNs, continues to be a focus for us this year. Our recently released Foundational Plan for Mental Health , Alcohol and Other Drug Services, and Suicide Prevention, our agreements with the Mental Health Commission and with the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia, and the Health Service Provider Partnership Protocols, reflect a commitment to working together to facilitate joint planning, priority setting and commissioning of integrated care to enhance health outcomes. Through joining healthcare systems together, we hope to transform how care is delivered and improve the experience and outcomes for patients, their families and carers, for providers and at lower overall cost to our health system.

WAPHA continues to have strong representation on national PHN Cooperative working groups, including workforce, aged care, after hours, mental health and alcohol and other drugs.  This representation provides an opportunity to inform the PHN national position and ensure the perspective of WA is represented.

This year our commitment to working collaboratively with our partner agencies in strengthening WA’s primary health care workforce, particularly in areas of chronic workforce shortages, continues. We also have an opportunity to build on WAPHA’s contribution to the lived experience/peer workforce and we will work with sector peaks to support quality improvement and workforce development for our commissioned primary health care and integrated care services.   

WAPHA’s role in the Sustainable Health Review recommendations is ongoing, particularly relating to the Health Service Provider Partnership Protocols and Agreement with WA Department of Health, collaborative commissioning, and outpatient reform.

Refining our approach to engagement

The voices of all our stakeholders – communities, consumers, families, carers, health professionals and service providers – are critical to shaping our work to address inequity, identify gaps and invest in accessible, quality local care. In 2022, WAPHA will focus on revitalising our stakeholder reference and advisory groups to make them more flexible and for purpose. Our recently formed GP Advisory Panel, a group of 60 GPs from across the state, local primary health care collaboratives in WA’s regional areas and our LGBTQI+ and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse stakeholder reference groups all play an integral part in helping us achieve our strategic priorities and maximise our impact on people and communities most at risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes.

An enhanced relationship management software system, currently in development, will further strengthen our ability to engage with stakeholders in a meaningful way. It will give us a deeper understanding of key stakeholders individually and collectively and will enable targeted communications and engagement.  WAPHA is focused on the many digital health enablers that support our Vision.  To set a clear agenda for our efforts in digital health, we have developed a position paper that will articulate our role and areas of focus in support of general practice, the residential aged care sector and our commissioned services providers.

Strategic priorities and commissioning for better health

Our recently completed Alcohol and Other Drugs Strategy and Population Health Strategy support us to make informed commissioning decisions and contextualise our priorities. Our Aboriginal Health and Aged Care Strategies are in development, due to be launched later this year.  Engagement with key partners and stakeholders is integral to progressing priority initiatives that align with our Strategic Plan.

This year we will be progressing our commitment to fostering Integrated Healthcare Precincts. The   approach will involve several healthcare organisations working together in a coordinated way to maximise health outcomes, cost efficiencies and improve the experience of individuals accessing services and the clinicians providing them. WAPHA’s member organisations, peak bodies, health service providers, general practitioners and lived experience consultants continue to play a key role in the design process.

Aged care – an emerging health priority

Our new aged care program is a relatively new area of focus for PHNs – providing a clear mandate now for the PHN program aged care health priority. In our commitment to increasing access to primary health care for older Western Australians, including those living in residential aged care facilities (RACF), significant stakeholder engagement and input from across WAPHA is needed, including the establishment of a RACF/GP reference group to support this work. We are supporting GPs to build their capacity, and that of their practice teams, and increase workforce capabilities to provide sustainable, quality care for older Western Australians.

Expanding our commitment to diversity and inclusion

In our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are developing cultural competency and capability frameworks, toolkits and implementation plans. These will help WAPHA, our partners and commissioned services to develop and maintain the cultural competency of staff and provide a safe environment for clients of diverse backgrounds, bodies and culture who access their services.

2022 promises to be both an exciting and challenging year, and one that gives us the opportunity to continue our work in striving towards a more integrated health system across the varied regions of WA.

View our 2020-21 Year in Review to see WAPHA’s highlights and key achievements over the past year as we continue to work to deliver better health, together.