On top of the spending already announced under Rudd and Roxon’s health reforms under the COAG agreement, the 2010 Budget invests a further $2.2 billion over four years in health and hospital reform, across three broad platforms:

Access to GPs: $355.2 million over three years for 23 new GP Super Clinics and 425 facility upgrades and $417 million to enhance after hours services and to establish Medicare Locals across the country, responsible for identifying service gaps in local areas and improving co-ordination of primary care, hospital and aged care services.

Training and support for nurses: $523 million over four years to train and support nurses:

Including $390.3 million over four years to improve financial support for nurses in general practices to help expand their role in primary care, particularly in prevention and chronic disease management

$128.4 million over four years for training and education incentive payments for nurses and personal care workers in aged care; to allow rural nurses to take leave; to build nursing careers in aged care; and to evaluate nurse practitioner models in aged care.

E-health: $466.7 million over two years from 2010-11 to establish the “key national components” of a personally controlled Individual Electronic Health Record (IEHR) system, an online system that enables health care providers to access and use an individual’s health care record when and where it is needed, with consent, with a view to modernising health system to “boost patient safety, make it easier to navigate the health system and slash waste and duplication.” Commencing in 2012-13.

This takes the total investments to $7.3 billion over five years to support the National Health and Hospitals Network.

Big ticket items already announced as part of Rudd’s COAG agreement include:

  • Government will provide $1.6 billion over four years to provide funding for at least 1,300 additional beds for sub-acute services (announced 20 April 2010) as part of the COAG communique and is subject to States and Territories committing to and establishing an agreed number of new sub-acute beds each year to receive payment from the Commonwealth.
  • $625.3 million over four years to reduce waiting times for elective surgery in public hospitals, announced 12 April 2010. Of this, $300 million will be provided to the States and Territories in 2010-11 to help reduce elective surgery backlogs, with a further $350 million available in reward payments for those States and Territories that meet the announced targets, under a National Partnership Agreement.

There are also some interesting reforms to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) worth noting: changes will be made to the way Formulary 2 (F2) medicines are priced:

“F2 medicines are those listed on the PBS and RPBS that currently attract a statutory price reduction when a single brand medicine becomes subject to direct competition, usually when a patent expires.

Pricing of F2 medicines will be reduced firstly by strengthening price disclosure and secondly, by implementing three statutory price reductions.”

From October 1 this year all F2 medicines will be subject to price disclosure and according to Treasury estimates, these measures will provide savings of $1.9 billion over five years.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey