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Budget: Health highlights

At a glance:
  • Boost to medical research, with $200 million for dementia 
  • Funding to continue for PCEHR
  • Medicare Locals replaced 
  • HWA rolled into department of health

Fulfilling a pre-election commitment, last night’s Federal Budget 2014-15 provided $200 million over five years for research to improve treatment for dementia in Australia. Funding will go towards establishing a National Institute for Dementia Research, which will bring together existing resources and infrastructure to coordinate research priorities and translate existing dementia research into policy and practice.

The funding also delivers $9 million for Brisbane’s Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research, which focuses on the prevention and treatment of dementia, as per a previous commitment.

Medical research in the medium to long term will get $276.2 million over three years from 1 July 2015 from the Medical Research Future Fund. In the long term the fund will provide a sustained funding stream for medical research with payments growing to around $1 billion per year from 2022‑23.

The government is continuing to fund the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) for another year with $140.6 million allocated for 2014-15 while it finalises its response to the review of the PCEHR.

In a bid to address workforce shortages in rural and remote areas, the government will fund an additional 500 nursing and allied health scholarships worth up to $30,000 each and a total of $13.4 million over three years from 2014‑15.

Medicare Locals will be replaced with Primary Health Networks (PHN) from 1 July 2015, resulting in fewer but larger entities. PHNs will be clinically-focused and work with GPs, consumers via local consumer advisory committees, and Local Hospital Networks, to improve patient care and health outcomes.

Health Workforce Australia will be abolished with its functions consolidated into the Department of Health to achieve savings of $142 million over five years. The Australian National Preventive Health Agency will also be abolished to save $6.4 million over five years from 2013‑14. Ongoing functions including the administration of social marketing activities and the provision of grants will also be integrated into the health department.

The government will also dismantle the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in its current form. It said it would work with States and Territories in the second half of 2014 in a bid to merge AIHW into a new a newly created Health Productivity and Performance Commission, which would also subsume the current Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Independent Hospitals Pricing Authority, National Health Funding Body, National Health Funding Pool Administrator and National Health Performance Authority.

See reaction to the AIHW merger: Budget: Concern with AIHW move 

READ NEXT: Budget: Aged care highlights

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