Getting primary care right

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Everyone agrees we need to improve primary care. The Commonwealth government is proposing ‘health care homes’ as part of the answer and a move to paying GPs to look after the whole patient. What issues does that raise? Do we have the information to do that? It’s often claimed that improved primary care will lead to reduced hospitalisations. Will it? A recent Grattan Institute report found that there are places in Victoria – Broadmeadows as an example – with very high rates of potentially preventable hospitalisation for a whole decade. What should we do in those places?

In this Policy Pitch, Stephen Duckett, Director of the Health Program at Grattan Institute presented some findings from Grattan Institute research. He was then joined on a panel to discuss these issues by Anne Congleton, Deputy Secretary, Community Participation, Sport and Recreation, Health and Wellbeing Division in the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services; and Jane Gunn, Professor of Primary Care Research and Head, Department of General Practice, Melbourne Medical School.


James Button works as communication manager at the Grattan Institute, and is a former deputy editor and Europe correspondent at The Age. He has won two Walkley Awards for feature writing. In 2009 and 2010 he worked in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and wrote speeches for former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, an experience described in Speechless: A Year in my Father’s Business. The book was shortlisted for the National Biography Award, National Book Industry Book of the Year and the Walkley Foundation Non-Fiction Book Award. He has just finished his second book: Comeback – The Fall and Rise of Geelong.


Anne Congleton is the Deputy Secretary, Community Participation, Sport and Recreation, Health and Wellbeing at the Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to this role, Anne was the Deputy Secretary, West Division from 2012 -2015. Anne has worked across many parts of the Department involving roles in policy, program development, corporate resources and service delivery. Prior to joining the department Anne held senior roles in the Department of Treasury and Finance.

Jane Gunn is the Foundation Chair of Primary Care Research, the current Head of the Department of General Practice and Deputy Head of the Melbourne Medical School at The University of Melbourne. She is a General Practitioner, an Expert Primary Care Advisor to the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme and is a Director of the Board of the Eastern Melbourne PHN. She is past Chair of the Northern Melbourne Medicare Local Board of Directors and a past President of the Australian Association for Academic Primary Care. She has acted as an advisor to the Australian Government’s Science Priorities and Mental Health Expert Reference Group and served on the NHMRC Research Committee from 2009‐2015. She has also been an invited member of national guideline groups, most recently on the committee which developed the Australian guidelines for the management of borderline personality disorder

Dr Stephen Duckett is the Health Program Director at Grattan Institute. Stephen has held top operational and policy leadership positions in health care in Australia and Canada, including as Secretary of what is now the Commonwealth Department of Health. He has a reputation for creativity, evidence-based innovation and reform in areas ranging from the introduction of activity-based funding for hospitals to new systems of accountability for the safety of hospital care. An economist, he is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.