NHPA: The methods are good – but the findings quite grim

12 March 2013

The National Health Performance Authority (NHPA) is to be congratulated on the consultative process in which it has engaged and on the mapping and reporting framework it has adopted for its Healthy Communities Reports. The second such report, Australians’ experience with primary health care in 2010-11, was released last week.

The report confirms that where people live “has a noticeable impact on whether they will get (GP) care when they need it, within acceptable waiting times, and at a price they can afford”. There is also great intra-area variation.

The NRHA welcomes the baseline evidence being established through this report, and the way in which the reporting is being done. One of the geographical regions for reporting is the Medicare Local. Given the huge size of some of these, it is good to see that the framework permits analysis and reporting by around 300 smaller units within Medicare Locals, as well as by individual Medicare Locals and by groups of similar Medicare Locals.

Notwithstanding the report’s title, it actually deals with a number of self-reported matters relating to access to and experience with GP services. As some have been quick to point out, although Medicare Locals provide one of the bases for reporting, they are not responsible in any way for the results reported. They are for 2010-11 – the year before Medicare Locals were established.

These Healthy Communities Reports will in the future provide public evidence on a number of issues relating to local GP services – and, later, relating to a range of other services as well. This evidence will be critical in encouraging and enabling the involvement of local people in the operation of local health care services and in keeping those services accountable.

The NRHA is encouraging the NHPA to continue its close liaison with other agencies that are analysing health service and health outcomes data for different reasons and on the basis of different reporting units. For instance, the COAG Reform Council is reporting by jurisdiction (State, Territory, national) and by rurality; and the Rural Standing Committee of AHMAC is planning to report on the performance of each jurisdiction against the National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health. For all of these there are some unmet challenges relating to data for remote areas and for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. It is good to hear that NHPA and the ABS are investing further in trying to overcome these challenges.

The NRHA looks forward to the future reports of the NHPA, including those on people’s access to and self-reported experiences with allied health professionals, medical specialists and primary care-type emergency department attendances – as well as with GPs.

Media Enquiries: 

Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660