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Britain could learn from Australia – High Commissioner

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British High Commissioner to Australia, Her Excellency Menna Rawlings, has praised the Australian healthcare system, saying her country could learn from it.

Addressing the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra, the High Commissioner was asked by Australian Medicine to compare Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to Australia’s healthcare system.

The NHS turned 70 this year and celebrations across the UK were marred by protests and strikes.

Yet despite regular reports of failures in the system and ongoing efficiency savings, the NHS repeatedly ranks high on international surveys of the world’s best healthcare systems.

Ms Rawlings said there were similarities in the two nations’ systems.

“We’ve talked about this a lot. We’ve had this debate internally, in terms of actually what we can learn from the Australian healthcare system,” she said.

“Because if you look at outcomes in terms of life expectancy or ability to defeat disease, Australia actually has got the edge because of the system that you have.”

But the High Commissioner, whose posting to Australia is drawing to a close, praised the NHS as an excellent system.

“The standard of care on the whole is exceptionally good,” she said.

“I’ve had two of my three kids in NHS hospitals… I’ve had no complaints with it whatsoever.”

Ms Rawlings said healthcare was “quite personal and visceral to all of us,” because everyone highly values their health and that of their loved ones.

“I think what Australia has done, which is different, is it has managed to create a hybrid system where people are prepared to pay extra to fund a degree of private health care,” she said.

“In that sense, I think it’s somewhere between the US model and the UK model.

“I think it’s an interesting question for us about does that tell us anything about how you can get different ways perhaps of funding health care, with people perhaps more willing to participate extra if they’re able to do so.

“But I have to say, politically, it is a very tough issue in the UK and I don’t imagine we will be going quite there any time soon.”

The highly-regarded career diplomat used her Press Club address to talk fondly of the relationship between Australia and the UK, and to express her gratitude for the opportunity to be an example to women and girls.

Ms Rawlings is the first female to fill the post of British High Commissioner to Australia.