Sustainable Health Review: Report signals new era of collaboration between primary care and hospital sectors

By Learne Durrington, WA Primary Health Alliance CEO

The Sustainable Health Review’s final report recommendations are important for WA general practice.

Released this week, several of the Sustainable Health Review final report’s key recommendations signal a new era of cooperation and understanding between our hospital and primary care sectors. WA Primary Health Alliance’s (WAPHA) central role in conveying the views of GPs, allied health professionals and primary care service providers has been reflected in a cohesive set of recommendations that, if implemented true to their intent, will result in better outcomes for patients and primary care clinicians, with reduced cost to the health system.

The voices of general practice were heard and respected throughout the Review’s consultation process. We facilitated forums and face-to-face sessions for the Review’s Panel and GP stakeholders and the outcomes of these are obvious in the relevant recommendations. Panel members, in particular the Chair, Robyn Kruk, recognised the need for transformational change and the pivotal role of general practice in transforming the State’s health system.

At its start, the Review undertook to acknowledge and challenge the ‘inconvenient truths’ that have inhibited our progress towards achieving the Quadruple Aim of a high performing health system in WA (improving the health of our population, enhancing the experience of care for individuals, reducing the per capital cost of healthcare and improving the work-life of clinicians and staff).

These inconvenient truths included our health system’s focus on treatment rather than keeping people healthy closer to home, that the best care occurs in the hospital setting, the fragmentation of the health system, the disconnect between general practice and hospitals, the maldistribution of primary care services across the state and the perverse funding structures that confound true integrated care.

The Review’s key primary care recommendation will deliver a strategic partnership between WAPHA and the Department of Health WA and is intended to facilitate joint planning, priority setting and commissioning of integrated care. Taking the form of a whole of State Integrated Care Partnership Agreement, a key enabler to delivering the intended outcomes will be the improved communication, relationships and coordination between GPs and hospital specialists – increasing understanding and building trust.

WAPHA will take a lead role in the development of the 10-year State Health Plan based on the enduring strategies of the Sustainable Health Review. We’ll continue to build on the robust consultation and collaboration with primary care stakeholders, particularly general practice. WAPHA will, in concert with Department of Health WA, deliver the bi-annual Primary Health Roundtable to ensure there is a regular Forum for GPs, allied health professionals and primary care service providers to continue the conversation that’s been started.

A corollary of WAPHA’s involvement in the Review has been our ongoing role in informing the state’s outpatient reform program (including the review of the Central Referral System), state health strategies and election commitments on topics including obesity, LGBTI health, end of life care and voluntary assisted dying, Urgent Care Centres and Medihotels.

We’ll continue to represent general practice by consulting individually and via advocates such as the RACGP and WAGPET – and we’ll commit to leveraging WAPHA’s unique position as a trusted partner across the health system.