A new approach to primary care for Australia



Governments are always talking about taking the pressure off public hospitals. The current federal government says it can do it by subsidising the private health insurance industry, which hasn’t worked. The states argue that they could cut hospital waiting lists if only the feds gave them more money.

Both arguments are missing the point. The best way to take the pressure off hospitals is to ensure that most people don’t need to go there in the first place.

Australia faces spiraling rates of chronic illness, including many that could be prevented, mitigated or cured through early intervention. Without change, we will continue to spend more and more to achieve less and less. Too many people have to fight their way through a complex maze of services and funding systems to deal with common illnesses that could easily be addressed at their local health centre – if only the state and federal governments were willing to take on the challenge of real health reform.

In the new paper A new approach to primary care for Australia, published by the CPD, Jennifer Doggett shows that health systems oriented towards primary and preventative care achieve better health outcomes at a lower overall cost than systems oriented towards hospital care.

Download A new approach to primary care for Australia

An ageing population, increasing rates of chronic disease and health workforce
shortages are straining our health system. Without change, we will spend more and more to achieve less and less.

Australia is preoccupied with hospitals, not health. Hospital should be a last resort not the first. Dignity, autonomy and good health are best served by delivering health services in the home or as locally as possible.

A new approach to primary care for Australia doesn’t just provide the evidence for a change in direction – it spells out how it can be achieved, with the establishment of ‘one stop shop’ primary health care centres staffed with all the expertise needed to manage the overall health of the local population. These centres would form the backbone of a high-quality universal health system, benefiting Australians of all backgrounds and incomes, rather than a limited ‘safety net’ service designed to catch the fallout from a two-tier system.

The cost of rolling out enough integrated primary health care centres to service the entire population of Australia would be around $4 billion dollars over ten years. This is the same amount that the federal government throws away in just one year to prop up the private health insurance industry.