29 January 2018

Could this be a magical year for reform?

General Practice

Dr Diana O’Halloran has been appointed an officer of the Order of Australia (AO), the second most prestigious award, in the 2018 honours list.

The influential western Sydney GP, who chairs the WentWest Primary Health  Network, was an RACGP board member from 2000 to 2008, said 2018 could be something of a “magic moment” for health reform in Australia.

“The key messages are very encouraging,” she said.

“We are working towards a truly person-centred health system. In consultation with consumers and communities, we are moving from volume to value, from a focus on process and activity to outcomes, from hospital-dependent to more community-based care,” she said.

This involved a shift in understanding that health and social care were inextricably entwined and must work together to influence the socio-economic determinants of health, and to change life/illness trajectories early.

Properly supported, patient-centred medical home principles could provide the means to achieve rapid changes in general practice quality and capability, Dr O’Halloran said.

“Primary Health Networks, in partnership with local health networks, are designed for purposes such as this. Colleges and other peak bodies will also need to add their expertise and support. Let’s see just what is possible in 2018.”

Among other award winners, long-serving GP educator Associate Professor Morton Rawlin was one of several GPs to be named a member the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to medicine.

A former director of education at the RACGP, the Victorian GP was the inaugural chair of the college’s National Faculty of Specific Interests. Under his stewardship, the faculty grew in less than a decade from handful of specific skill areas to more than 25.

“GPs have a life journey through their careers, and we all develop specific skills and interests. Some of us take it a bit further than others, but many GPs who developed those specific skills felt they were not necessarily valued,” he said.

Associate Professor Rawlin welcomed the coming takeover of GP training by the profession, adding cooperation between the RACGP and ACRRM would be essential to its success.

“Probably the critical factor will be making sure that we continue to provide both services and the right educational opportunities for our registrars as they move forward and encouraging them to look at areas of need.

“That can include geographical areas, but also where patients are not well served. That might be in Aboriginal communities, in linguistically diverse communities, a whole raft of things. Also, we need to make sure that we are in the outer suburbs.”