Partnership presents new ways to make change in the health system


After months of work a showcase of ideas on ways to transform the health system has been presented as part of a Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN) and Consumer Health Forum of Australia (CHF) partnership.

WNSW PHN and CHF came together to deliver Collaborative Pairs, a program developed in the UK by the King's Fund and involved pairing someone from within the primary healthcare sector with a health service user to work on a shared health challenge, project or idea.

The program also facilitates the development of leadership and communication skills, partnerships and improve services.

Since February this year nine 'pairs' meeting in Bathurst, Broken Hill and Dubbo, have taken on the challenge to work together on a new approach to influencing the health services in the communities they live in.

Guided by consumer advocate Jane Cockburn and health professional Karen Patterson, explored, as change agents, shared areas of interest such as youth mental health, diabetes management, social isolation, the impacts of drought and cancer screening.

"Collaborative Pairs has been an exciting new undertaking for WNSW PHN and we are the first in Australia to complete the program. What is unique about it is the pairing which enables consumers, community organisations and health professionals to learn to work together on an equal footing and be respectful of each other's perspectives and expertise. All of this is critical if we are to improve the health system and it is great to see the results of months of hard work the pairs have put in," WNSW PHN CEO Andrew Harvey said.

"It is clear this program has really helped the participants to develop and grow essential skills and that everyone has brought a unique perspective on how they can change the health care system."

The success of the Collaborative Pairs program in Western NSW PHN has shown the great potential for collaboration between consumers, community organisations and health providers in rural and regional Australia, Leanne Wells, CEO of CHF said.

"Despite the obstacles of distance and dispersed services in western NSW, this pioneering collaboration by the PHN has shown the special benefits of bringing those with different perspectives together," Ms Wells said.

“Collaborative Pairs is about shared leadership and decision making. Most importantly, it is a way of achieving change by acknowledging that consumer and community insights are as important as any other in the health system and key to improving and innovating in healthcare."

 “Collaborative Pairs shows how we can build on the sharing ethos of healthcare in the bush to help meet the special challenges of distance and constrained services."