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An invitation to contribute to Labor’s National Health Policy Summit

Croakey readers with an interest in contributing to Labor’s health policy have been invited to participate in a national health summit next year.

Find out more about how to engage with this process in the article below from Catherine King, the Shadow Minister for Health and Federal member for Ballarat in Victoria.

Apparently you don’t have to be a “friend” to wangle an invitation.


Catherine King writes:

Bill Shorten and I recently announced that Labor would host a National Health Policy Summit early next year. I’m pleased that the Summit has generated some excitement among health policy experts, including Croakey’s readers.

Catherine King, speaking today at NACCHO's annual general meeting
Catherine King, speaking today at NACCHO’s annual general meeting

Labor is proud of the health policies that we took to the last election. I’m particularly proud of our package of measures to promote health and prevent chronic disease, which experts welcomed as one of the most comprehensive public health platforms that Australia has seen.

But with the election behind us, we need to look ahead – and not just to the next election. All of us need to think carefully about how to build the health system that we’ll need in 5, 10 and 20 years.

It would be dangerous for any politician or political party to think that they have all the answers. In fact, our role as policy-makers demands that we listen to the people who know our health system best, and refine our thinking based on their expertise and experiences. Developing policy in a political vacuum simply doesn’t work.

That’s what has led us to the National Health Policy Summit. To be blunt, we think that there is a distinct lack of vision in current health policy.

Without wanting to be too political, the reality is that there is a lot of activity – reviews, consultations, trials, multiple consultancies – but very little health policy coherence.  There is also a lot of uncertainty as a result of the Government failing to articulate a vision for our health care system let alone the health of the nation.

The Summit will be a unique opportunity for consumers, providers, stakeholders and experts to help set the frame for Labor’s health policies going into the next election. It will be an important milestone as we refine our policy agenda for a Shorten Labor Government.

Critical topics

The Summit will explore some of the biggest questions facing our health system, like:

  • What role does health need to play to ensure better coherence between Medicare, the NDIS, mental health and aged care reforms?
  • How do we continue to ensure universal access to world-class health care in the current fiscal context?
  • How can we improve quality and safety, as well as access, across all settings?
  • What challenges are consumers and providers facing, and how can we overcome them?
  • How should we tackle the health inequalities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people in rural and remote Australia and other groups?
  • How can we reduce emergency department and elective surgery waiting times in our public hospitals, including after the Government’s agreement with the states and territories expires in 2020?
  • How will our health system need to change as Australians live longer? What models of care are best placed to prevent and manage chronic disease and how do we fund them?
  • How can we break down silos across government to address challenges like the social determinants of health and climate change?

The Summit will be structured around keynote presentations and themed policy sessions. These will be chaired by Bill, myself and Labor’s outstanding health team – including members of our Medicare Caucus Committee – and co-chaired by experts in each area.

The policy sessions will allow participants to discuss priority topics in depth. Ahead of the Summit, we will distribute short papers to invited participants to help promote discussion on the day.

This is an unusually transparent way of setting a public policy frame. But in a highly contested era in health policy, I think it’s important to get everyone with an interest in our future health system around the same table.

Big reforms take time

I also think it’s important to recognise that no one government in one jurisdiction will be able to solve all the problems that the Summit identifies. That’s why before the last election, Labor committed to establish a permanent Australian Healthcare Reform Commission. The Commission would have embedded reform into the architecture of our health system.

As we’ve seen in recent years, big reforms can take time. They need an institutional home that outlasts political cycles and can help build consensus on the big and difficult questions in health.

The Government has not matched our commitment to establish the Commission. But Labor will continue to develop health reforms that are informed by evidence and expert advice. So the National Health Policy Summit will be an important platform to discuss the health system we have – and the one we want.

Interested?

We won’t be able to accommodate everyone who might want to attend the Summit. But we will try to make the Summit as inclusive as possible of the breadth of ideas in health policy.

As part of that, we’ll invite people who don’t generally agree with us – as well as people who do.

Invitations to the Summit will be sent out in January. If you’d like to attend, or to nominate someone else, please feel free to email my office (details below).

Ahead of the Summit, I’d also welcome your feedback on Labor’s National Platform, as well as the specific policies we took to the 2016 election.

In an unstable Parliament, our policy development process may prove to be unusually truncated, so we’re undertaking a short and sharp policy review process – in which the National Health Policy Summit will be key.

I look forward to hearing from you, and to seeing many of you at the Summit next year.

For more information, please contact Andrew.Garrett@aph.gov.au.