Month: December 2023

Advocating for consumer rights as we live with COVID

We recently held another in our series of Consumer Conversations in relation to COVID. On 12 December 2023, consumers had the opportunity to hear from Dr Andy Robertson, WA Health’s Chief Health Officer.

Based on that discussion, and the questions raised before and after, we have today sent a briefing of consumer sentiments about COVID to WA Health leaders, including the Director General, and the Chief Executives of the Health Service Providers.

You can read this briefing here: COVID Health Consumer sentiments HCC December 2023

We know that many people remain concerned about COVID, and are concerned at the lack of awareness in the general population of the risks that COVID still poses.

In 2024, we are planning to host further community updates with health leaders to help inform the community about this important health issue.

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Clare Mullen, Executive Director, December 2023

2023 in review

I can’t quite believe that we are very much at the end of this calendar year period. As I reflect back on the year that was many highlights come to mind:

  • Firstly, reflecting on internal changes at Health Consumers’ Council, we had a change in leadership which led to some other changes internally and how we’re organised. We’ve also seen an increase in the amount of requests we’re receiving for involving consumers in health policy and planning projects – which is great to see.
  • This year we also calculated that since 2020 we’ve seen a 30% increase in requests for independent advocacy. We know that independent advocacy can help to redress the power imbalance that many people experience as they navigate the complexity of our health system or when things go wrong in healthcare and will continue to advocate for increased access to this support for more Western Australians.
  • Through these changes, we’ve maintained our passion and commitment to advocating for consumer, carer and community rights and interests of people who use health services – and will continue to champion the importance of an independent voice for consumers in health.
  • More broadly, we saw the start of significant changes in many services and systems that people in the community rely on: in disability, in aged care, in primary care (GPs and pharmacies), and in hospital and community health services.
  • We must have strong and diverse voices involved in these discussions – with a collective understanding of the importance of joined up services. Otherwise, all these reforms risk creating a modernised, but still highly fragmented health and social care system that many of us struggle to navigate.
  • To address that, we experimented with a novel approach to engaging consumers, carers and community members in response to WA Health’s work on the Emergency Access Reform program – and we’ll be reviewing that approach in the new year.
  • We advocated on a wide range of health topics – including providing input to the WA Safety and Quality Strategy and advocating for robust and diverse consumer involvement in the decisions regarding the new Women’s and Newborns Hospital – this work will continue for years to come.
  • Beyond health and social care, a major seismic event in Australia this year was the referendum on the voice to Parliament. I was personally very disappointed in the result. And as someone leading an organisation that exists to advocate for people to have a voice on the issues that affect them, I have been reflecting on what this means for us into the future. I will continue to share our progress on this work into the future.
  • In that spirit, we’ve also been gathering feedback to help inform a refreshed direction for HCC, drawing on the lessons and the successes of the last 30 years and turning our attention to the future. So that we can set our path for a positive future with regards to the health of Western Australia.

Looking ahead to 2024, plans are already underway for us to celebrate the milestone of 30 years, which we’ll do in April next year. Watch this space for details of how we’ll be doing that.

One of the best bits of my job is working with, and hearing from the many people in our community who commit their time as consumer, carer, community or lived experience representatives to making our health system the best it can be for our whole community. And I know from discussions with many of you that our work as consumer representatives and advocates can sometimes feel hard and yet can also be enormously rewarding.

I also know that for many people, health issues and caring responsibilities don’t stop for the holidays. Particularly as we continue to navigate what it means to live well in this “with COVID” world.

I wish you all time over this holiday period with loved ones, or in nature, or doing other things that you know nurture your health and wellbeing.

I look forward to working with you and standing alongside you as we continue to advocate for the people of Western Australia in regards to health and health care next year and beyond.