Stronger healthcare after COVID-19

| February 10, 2021

The Consumer Commission was established by the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a strong consumer voice helps to shape healthcare in the future. CHF believes that meaningful partnerships with consumers are critical to ensuring we reimagine health and social care in a way that is person-centred and person-led after this significant period of disruption.

The report has been shaped by a diverse group of 30 consumer leaders from across Australia and has drawn on interviews with national experts. The health and wellbeing impacts of COVID-19 have been widespread and well documented. The ongoing economic effects will continue to impact on many, particularly the most disadvantaged in our community, for months and years to come. Although equal treatment is a fundamental Australian value, we recognise that COVID-19 and our policies to control it have affected some disproportionately.

The recovery must focus on those most affected and should be done in a way that builds stronger communities and embraces innovation. This approach will make Australia more resilient in the face of future crises.

While Australia’s response to COVID-19 has worked well overall, there have been some significant challenges and many lessons we can learn from the experience. The lived experiences of consumers, families and carers are just as critical to informing our understanding of what has happened as service use and funding data.

Consumer anxiety about the safety of healthcare settings led to many people delaying ongoing care. Others had elective procedures deferred or the format of their appointments changed. Out of necessity we have adopted significant changes at great speed and now we must consider what should be retained, what fault lines have been exposed and what practical and structural changes are needed to address the gaps.

The Commission met on six occasions and exchanged views and ideas across a range of issues from consumer leadership to mental health, as well as integration, digital health and health equity. The key issues discussed in these deliberations are drawn together into a set of diagnoses, prescriptions and recommendations through this report.

The final report – Making Health Better Together is aimed at the broader consumer community, as well as ministers, governments, health care professionals and industry representatives. The key issues identified will help shape CHF’s advocacy agenda moving forward.

Questions and recommendations

Key questions the Consumer Commission looked at included:

• How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we think about and deliver healthcare services and build a healthy society?

• What should the future of health and social care policy look like from the consumer perspective?

• What tangible changes should be put in place to support equal access to health care and reduce disadvantage across the Australian community?

• How can the consumer voice, experience and perspective be instrumental in shaping the approach in the post-COVID environment?

The report’s recommendations encompass:

• Consumer Leadership and Co-design

• Mental Health and Wellbeing

• Integration and Care Coordination

• Health Equity

• Digital Health

As Chair of CHF I am proud of the outcomes of this Commission and the far reaching recommendations and prescriptions we have made for the future of the health system and which are all aimed at improving health outcomes for all Australians.

The full report can be accessed online.