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How to spend $20bn

Eminent medical researcher Professor Ian Frazer will lead a board charged with advising the Federal Government on investing funds from the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.

Professor Frazer, who will be joined by seven other directors drawn from the private sector and academia, will develop the five-year Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy, and set priorities every two years.

“The Advisory Board will ensure that any expenditure from the MRFF will have a strong business case, ensuring that the financial assistance provided…delivers the greatest value for all Australians,” Health Minister Sussan Ley said.

E-health overseer

The Commonwealth and the states and territories have agreed to set up the Australian Digital Health Agency to oversee the provision of national electronic health records and other digital health services.

The agency, which will begin operations in July, will be responsible for management of the national digital health strategy, and the design and operation of systems including the Commonwealth’s My Health Record.

Greens target ‘wasteful’ rebate

The Australian Greens would scrap the private health insurance rebate and reinvest the funds in public hospitals.

As political parties sharpen their policies ahead of the Federal election, the Greens have pledged to axe the “wasteful” PHI rebate, freeing up $10 billion over four years which would be redirected to the public hospital system.

Greens leader and public health specialist Dr Richard Di Natale said his party would also reinstate the joint Federal-State hospital funding model scrapped by the Coalition so that the Commonwealth would match 50 per cent of the efficient growth in hospital costs, with the change enshrined in law.

Trial run

The nation’s health ministers have committed to making Australia more attractive for clinical trials to boost investment and improve access to new medicines.

The ministers said that more needed to be done to make Australia a preferred location for clinical trials, including reducing fragmentation and inefficiencies. They have asked the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council to develop options to organise sites, increase administrative efficiencies, improve engagement with sponsors, and reduce trial start-up times.

All the same

The nation’s hospitals will save $270 million over the next decade with the introduction of single standardised chart for the supply and reimbursement of Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme medicines.

Commonwealth, state and territory health ministers have agreed to harmonise legislation to allow for the use of the standardised chart, in a move that will ease the regulatory burden on prescribers, pharmacists and nurses, improve patient safety and cut hospital administration overheads by around $27 a year. The new charts will be available from July.

A joint approach

The Commonwealth and the states will look at opportunities to jointly commission mental health services, including through Primary Healthcare Networks, following an agreement struck at the COAG Health Council meeting.

The agreement was suggested by the Queensland Government, which emphasised the need to identify opportunities for the joint commissioning of services across the Commonwealth and state-funded health services “[to] support a more integrated approach to service delivery and reduce any potential duplication”.

The meeting agreed that mental health was one of the areas where opportunities for joint commissioning would be explored, and called on PHNs to work with Local Health Networks to “align mental health commissioning efforts” from July.

Adrian Rollins