Research Australia submission to the Treasurer in respect of preparations for the 2016 Budget acknowledges the importance of the Government’s focus on science and innovation to Australia’s future and makes a number of recommendations with the aim of improving supporting economic growth and developing a more innovative, safer, and efficient health system that delivers better quality care.
The Senate Select Committee into Health invited Research Australia to make a submission in relation to the linkage of and access to Commonwealth Health datasets for research purposes. The submission emphasised the importance of this data to research, and the potential it provides for better health outcomes and a safer, more effective and efficient health system. The submission made several recommendations to support the greater use of data, including the digital collection and storage of more data, recognising the use of health records for research purposes in governing legislation and building capacity in data management and data analysis.
The Australian Commission on Safety & Quality in Healthcare issued new draft Safety & Quality in Healthcare Standards for consultation. Research Australia has made a submission emphasising the improvement in safety and quality that can be made through greater engagement by researchers with the healthcare sector, and proposing a number of ways in which the draft Standards could be modified to enhance and support this engagement.
In responding to the Victorian Government’s consultation on its strategy for Health and Medical Research, Research Australia has emphasised the ability of the State Government to influence how health and medical research is conducted through the funding it provides for health and medical research, its role as a key stakeholder in the provision of health care, and its power to legislate to provide a supportive environment for HMR. Key recommendations include continuing to support initiatives that bring researchers and the health system together (Academic Health Science Centres, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre), providing incentives for further collaboration and multi disciplinary research, and improving researchers’ access to health records and other data held by the State Government.
Research Australia has responded to the Queensland Competition Authority’s Draft Report of Queensland Government Industry Assistance. Research Australia supports the need for a clear rationale and strict criteria for Industry Assistance Programs but suggests that the proposed criteria need to be developed and applied more appropriately. In the case of health and medical research, the opportunity to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the health care sector (with a saving to the Queensland Government) and to improve health and wellbeing need to be recognised as legitimate objectives of Government assistance. The submission highlights the complex interaction between public research funding and private sector involvement in the commercialisation of health and medical research, and points to some successful Queensland models that are worth supporting.
The Australian Government has consulted on changes to the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system, including moving to an opt out system, which creates the prospect of a much higher take up of the system and much greater utility to researchers in the future. While there is no proposed change to current arrangements in relation to research, the review offers the opportunity to influence how the system can be used for research purposes. Research Australia has supported the move to an opt out system, and has made a number of recommendations, including amending the legislation to allow identified data to be provided for data linking with other data sources for research purposes, and the indefinite retention of health records as a important resource for longitudinal research.
The Financial System Inquiry is examining the role and function of Australia’s Financial System. Research Australia’s submission emphasises the critical role the financial system plays in supporting innovation and proposes that this should be a key aim of any government intervention in, and regulation of, the financial system. It makes the case for governments to work with private sector capital to invest in innovative companies, and provides examples of how social impact bonds can be utilised to translate research into practice in the healthcare system.
Each year the Treasurer invites the Australian community to make submissions in relation to the preparation of the budget for the following financial year. Research Australia recommended:
- A real increase in Commonwealth Government funding for health and medical research, to enable continued improvements in the health and wellbeing of all Australians.
- A specific allocation to fund the implementation and monitoring of the McKeon Review recommendations and the development of a coherent national health and medical research strategy
- Increased funding for health systems research to increase capacity to analyse and identify best practice for the Australian health care system and to increase research into the most successful, effective and efficient delivery mechanisms and structures for implementing best practice.
- Increased funding for research to support the effective and rapid translation of new discoveries into practice.
- Greater funding for population health and preventive health research to improve the effectiveness of preventive health campaigns and identify emerging trends in the health and disease profile of the Australian population.
- Retention of the R&D tax credit as an important mechanism for supporting the commercialisation of Australian research.