Between 2013 and 2019, ACT Health failed to improve the healthcare of people who suffer from chronic conditions, a scathing report from the ACT Auditor-General has found.
Despite multiple strategies and commitments from the Directorate in the last decade, the ACT Government made no headway establishing or implementing strategies, the Chronic Disease Management Unit (CDMU) or using partnerships with other organisations to improve the health system, according to Auditor-General Michael Harris.
“These four commitments have not been effective in expressing improvement priorities, or in driving or demonstrating improvements to the care of people living with serious and continuing illness in the ACT,” Mr Harris said.
“The ACT Health Directorate has not established an effective strategic direction for the improvement of care through these commitments.”
ACT Health had not made any recommendations to respond to the 2017 National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions as of August this year, the audit found.
The Directorate was also criticised for not having ACT-specific strategies and failing to address the Territory’s specific circumstances.
However, the audit did acknowledge that the government’s Healthy Canberra: ACT Preventive Health Plan 2020-2025 will address many of the shortcomings in implementing the ACT Chronic Conditions Strategy between 2013 to 2019.
But it found that none of the four commitments added significant value to the ACT community.
“ACT Health Directorate officials’ and partners’ time and effort in developing strategies, plans and governance arrangements, and in monitoring and reporting on progress represents a significant lost opportunity for improving health outcomes,” the report said.
ACT Health was found to be less engaged and responsive to their partners than expected, while services at the Chronic Disease Management Unit were underutilised.
The Auditor-General recommended that the Directorate create an ACT-specific response to the national framework, develop more partnerships with organisations that are capable of improving the healthcare of people with chronic illnesses, and improve the transparency and accountability of the CDMU.
Reform of the CDMU by clarifying the purpose and benefit of its programs and services – especially the Chronic Care Program – was also recommended.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the Government agrees with all of the report’s recommendations and that work is already underway to improve services.
“Canberra Health Services and ACT Health have implemented a range of initiatives to expand and improve health services for people with chronic conditions, including some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” she said.
“The Canberra Health Services Strategic Plan identifies improving care for people with chronic conditions as a key strategic priority. Canberra Health Services is partnering with community healthcare networks and consumers to co-design an integrated care program for people living with chronic conditions.
“This work recognises the importance of integrated and co-ordinated care for people, with GPs, allied health professionals and specialists working alongside each other for the best possible patient outcome.”
The government noted that the Auditor-General did not look at service delivery in the report, citing Commonwealth, private and ACT Government providers who deliver chronic disease management services in the ACT.
A joint working group has also been established to oversee the strategy for chronic condition management across the ACT health system, with a senior committee overseeing the Territory’s response to the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions.
The government said stronger oversight and governance of the Canberra Health Services’ Chronic Care Program has also been implemented.
The Auditor-General’s report can be found here.