The Future of Health

13 January 2017
PSI and The Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) will be participating in the High-Level OECD Policy Forum on the Future of Health and OECD Health Ministerial that will be held in Paris on 16-17 January 2017. Ahead of the meeting, PSI has launched a new briefing entitled “The Future of Health: Person Centred Care in Policy and Practice”.

The OECD January 2017 Policy Forum addresses the Future of Health, exploring how person-centred care can become the ‘new normal’. While a greater focus on the needs of patients is welcomed, health services around the world are facing major challenges which risk compromising patient outcomes:

  • Cuts in public spending under widespread austerity programmes have reduced funding for public services including in health at a time when the demand for such services is increasing.  Cuts in funding for related sectors also have put pressures on health providers.
  • Austerity policies have typically adversely affected wages and working conditions for health staff. The working conditions of medical staff is clearly linked to patient outcomes.
  • Restructuring and reforms intended to increase efficiency and competition have created fragmented structures and reduce the scope for integration needed for patient centred care. 
  • Efficiency initiatives are dominated by cutting short term costs at the expense of long term investment – such as imposing a wage freeze on public sector workers which has led to a greater reliance on temporary, high cost medical staff.
  • Public private partnerships for health infrastructure lead to high cost, long-term, rigid contracts for the state. They absorb funds that could otherwise be used to treat patients and need to be considered as a major source of inefficiency in health financing.

The narrative of a shift to person centred health risks being little more than a distraction while these fundamental constraints to health services continue. Reforms to increase the role of the patient will have little impact while access to medical treatment is under threat. The efficiency discourse needs to be broadened to look beyond short term spending cuts to long term investment. Reorienting health systems away from the supply side to focus patient outcomes still requires a strong health service capacity. An adequately resourced, integrated, publicly funded and provided health system would seem to offer the most efficient means by which patients’ needs can be met. 

Ahead of the High-Level OECD Policy Forum on the Future of Health and OECD Health Ministerial meeting, taking place in Paris on 16-17 January, PSI launched a new briefing entitled “The Future of Health: Person Centred Care in Policy and Practice”.

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