#CEOdesk

The latest news and views from the NBMPHN CEO.
You can also follow Lizz Reay on Twitter: @NBMPHNceo

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month and a reminder that while some people may find it embarrassing, bowel cancer is a topic that should be discussed with your doctor, especially when you are over 50 years of age.

If found early, 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated. Yet, bowel cancer screening rates remain low when compared to other cancers, despite the introduction of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) which offers a free ‘at home’ screening kit to eligible Australians aged 50 - 74 years old.

Bowel Cancer is Australia's second deadliest cancer, claiming the lives of over 80 Australians every week. In our region, bowel cancer screening rates remain lower than the state average at 36.6%, compared to the NSW average of 37.8%

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A whole of community approach to end-of-life

Last Tuesday evening I attended our A whole of community approach to end-of-life event in Katoomba, which featured guest speaker Dr Julian Abel, Director of Compassionate Communities UK and Vice President of Public Health Palliative Care International.

At the event, Dr Abel provided insights into how the Frome Community in Somerset (UK) demonstrated a 30% reduction in unplanned hospital admissions through the implementation of a Compassionate Communities model - an innovative approach to end-of-life care that recognises the importance of human connection, kindness and compassion to our overall health and wellbeing.

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World No Tobacco Day: Smoke Free Mums To Be

This World No Tobacco Day is an important reminder that healthcare professionals play an important role in educating and motivating smokers to quit. Primary health practitioners should continuously work to identify smokers, assess their smoking status, and offer them support and cessation treatment options at every opportunity.

In our region, respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death and accounts for 5% of all hospitalisations. The leading cause of respiratory diseases is tobacco smoking. Our region’s smoking in pregnancy rates are consistently higher than the NSW average, with almost 14% of pregnant women smoking during pregnancy.

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Our ongoing journey towards Reconciliation

This week is National Reconciliation Week (NRW) and serves as an important reminder that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people still face extra challenges in life. Many of these are the consequences of a complex combination of social, economic and environmental factors that have been compounded by the ongoing effect of colonialisation and intergenerational trauma.

This NRW year’s theme Don’t Keep History a Mystery encourages all Australians to learn more about Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories, and to share that knowledge to help us grow as a nation. 

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Our Digital Health Strategy is Launched

I am delighted to announce that yesterday we launched our Digital Health Strategy for 2018-2021.

Digital technology is transforming healthcare. It has the power to improve access to services, increase provider collaboration, and facilitate the delivery of safe, high quality and effective healthcare which ultimately saves lives.

I am proud that we have been one of only two regions to lead Australia in digital health adoption through the My Health Record trial, and one of ten regions to be trialling the Health Care Homes initiative. Due to the success of the My Health Record trial, by the end of this year every Australian will receive a My Health Record, unless they choose not to, and we will once again take a leadership role in the expansion program by managing the Regional Communications Strategy for NSW and ACT.

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Winter is Coming! Protect yourself against flu

This week is World Immunisation Week and with winter fast approaching, it is a timely reminder to us all to get vaccinated against the flu before it’s too late.

Last week we launched our Winter is Coming! video campaign through social media and cinemas to encourage people to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the single most effective way of preventing the spread of flu in our community and getting vaccinated now will protect you before the peak flu period, which is usually around June to September.

Last winter over 90,000 people in NSW were struck down by flu making it the worst flu season since the 2009 pandemic. Most cases occurred in Sydney with over 42,500 people affected last year. The worst hit areas were Western Sydney, Nepean-Blue Mountains and South West Sydney local health districts, where more than a third of the state's flu-ridden people were treated.

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Live for today, but plan for tomorrow: Removing the stigma of talking about death

This week is National Advance Care Planning Week, and we are encouraging people to "live for today, but plan for tomorrow" by creating an Advance Care Plan. An Advance Care Plan lets you say what you would want at the end of your life, if you are ever unable to communicate for yourself.

To further support this event, we have released our own report into End-of-Life Care within our region, Caring for People at End of Life, which was commissioned to understand the current use of Advance Care Planning and to help identify the future planning needs for End-of-Life Care services.

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Hawkesbury is a Bowel Cancer Hot Spot

This Seniors Week, we want the message out there that cancer screening saves lives.

Recent data projections released by Cancer Institute NSW has found that by the end of the year, the Hawkesbury will have the highest rate of bowel cancer in the Sydney region. If found early, 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated. Yet, bowel cancer screening rates remain low when compared to other cancers, despite the introduction of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) which offers a free ‘at home’ screening kit to eligible Australians aged 50 - 74 years old.

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Interim Mental Health Support for Young People in Lithgow

Last month I wrote about the announcement by the Federal Government of funding to commission a new headspace outreach service in Lithgow in mid-2018.

While we work to establish this new service, it's important that youth in the area who are already experiencing psychological distress, can access the support they need.

As a result, we have established an interim measure that allows young Lithgow residents aged between 12 to 25 years old, who hold a current Centrelink issued Health Care Card, to access up to 12 sessions of free or low cost ($10) psychological services through a referral from their GP.

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We Care Medical Centre Launch

This past week I was delighted to attend the opening of a new general practice in our region, who have been benefiting from our free Workforce and General Practice Support Programs. We Care Medical Centre has just launched in the Penrith area and spoke very highly of our staff and the support they received from us while establishing their practice.

Our Workforce Team supports practices by facilitating the recruitment and retention of a skilled primary healthcare workforce to service our region’s growing population, while our Practice Support Team provides a wide range of activities that assist General Practitioners and practices deliver quality primary healthcare to our community.

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Village Café Wins Zest Award

Most of us know the old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ but the reality is that it takes a village to live well and grow old too. The village, or community, that each of us is a part of, can have an important impact on our overall state of health and wellbeing.

Recognising this, as part of the Penrith Health Action Plan - a joint initiative between Penrith City Council and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District; Nepean Blue Mountains PHN and key community partners, - we introduced a 'Village Café' in North St Marys last year. We are delighted to announce that the Village Café was recognised on Friday at the 2018 ZEST Awards, which celebrates exceptional people and projects that make a difference in the community of Western Sydney.

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Community Suicide Prevention Workshops

Good mental health is everyone’s concern. We all want to have a ‘positive’ wellbeing, with most of us now recognising the dramatic effect our mental health can have on our physical health – both positively and negatively.

Yet all of us, at one time or another, are at risk of poor mental health or even mental illness. Daily life stressors or big life changes such as becoming a parent, ending a relationship or losing a loved one, can sometimes overwhelm us all. That is why it is so important that those struggling with their mental health don’t feel isolated and that they can access the services they need, when they need it.

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New youth mental health support for Lithgow

Today I was delighted to attend an event in Lithgow with the Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee, who announced on behalf of the Federal Government additional funding to help support youth anxiety and depression.

I am passionate about improving the health of our local communities and mental health continues to be a high priority for our region.

As part of the package announced today, our PHN will receive funding to commission an outreach headspace service in Lithgow in mid-2018. I am thrilled that Lithgow will receive this much needed funding boost to help address the high rates of youth mental health in the area.

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Reflecting on 2017

As we countdown to the end of 2017, I would like to take a moment to reflect on our achievements this year. This is not straight forward, as there so many facets to our organisation, and we are fortunate to be involved in a large and diverse range of projects, all of which have the ultimate goal of improving the health of our community. 

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Changes to ATAPS as part of Mental Health Reform

In 2016, as part of its Mental Health Reform initiative, the Federal Government announced it would be introducing a Mental Health Stepped Care Model. 

PHNs were tasked with undertaking comprehensive regional mental health planning to identify the primary mental health care service gaps and establish a stepped care model approach to delivering these services.

Today, we are at the completion of a six-month consultation project that has sought feedback from a wide cross-section of our community; GPs, hospital-based clinicians, consumers, carers and the allied health providers participating in our current mental health programs.

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HealthPathways now available!

Today the new HealthPathways website for our region is available. The launch follows 18 months of significant collaboration between a diverse group of local clinical experts, as part of a joint initiative between our organisation and the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.

HealthPathways is an online decision support tool that provides GPs and other healthcare providers with clinical information and referral options to support point of care assessment and management of their patients.

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How our Community Helps to Shape Healthcare

Wentworth Healthcare has always valued the views of our community, and we have incorporated nationally-recognised community engagement projects into our strategic planning for over five years.

The people involved in our regional Community Advisory Committee (CAC) as well as those who participate in our LGA-based consumer groups represent a broad cross-section of our local community.

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Renewal of the National Cervical Screening Program

Despite cancer screening being linked to reductions in mortality and increases in survival rates through the early detection and treatment of cancer, our region’s cervical screening participation rates have been declining.

This week is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, in close proximity to the commencement of the Renewal of the National Cervical Screening Program from 1 December, when the two yearly Pap test for women aged 18 to 69 years will change to a five yearly Cervical Screening Test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) for women aged 25 to 74.

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Being Antiobiotics Aware

The healthcare community is becoming increasingly aware of the very real, global health risk of antibiotic resistance. Over prescription of antibiotics can lead to resistance. Which means that antibiotics may no longer work.

A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective. We also know that Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.

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Lung Health Awareness Month and World COPD Day

In our region, respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death. It accounts for 5% of hospitalisations and is one of the top two potentially preventable causes of hospitalisation, with around 970 people admitted to local hospitals from respiratory conditions each year.

November is Lung Health Awareness month, and I welcome this opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of lung health, in particular Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which affects 1 in 7 Australians.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I am a true believer in health screening. Statistics confirm that screening plays a pivotal role in reducing mortality rates through the early detection and treatment of cancer, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to remind everyone of this fact. 

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NBMPHN staff member Mitch Beggs-Mowczan to carry Queen's Baton

Our entire organisation is very excited this week by the announcement that one of our staff members has been named to carry the Queen's Baton as it makes its way through Penrith for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Mitchell Beggs-Mowczan is one of only 17 baton bearers selected for the local leg of the relay. 

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End of Life Care Project

In our region, around 1,600 people would benefit from some form of end of life care each year, which equates to more than 133 people each month.

This year, we started an End of Life Care initiative, that involves collaboration and input from GPs, hospital staff in palliative care and nursing, residential aged care workers, sociological and psychological experts, and NSW Ambulance. 

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Cancer Screening Program on a Winning Streak

Our Cancer Screening program team recently attended the sixth annual 2017 Innovations in Cancer Treatment and Care Conference in Sydney, which brings together NSW health professionals to learn and share the latest innovations in quality cancer treatment and care.

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NBMPHN showcases commissioned programs

I was thrilled to be part of a Showcase event this week that marked both the culmination and beginning of an exciting chapter for our region. It’s the culmination of an extensive commissioning process and the beginning for a number programs that are being rolled out to address drug, alcohol and mental health issues across our region. 

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Towards better refugee health

Last week I attended an event that reminded me about the inequities in our healthcare system and the important role that primary healthcare providers play in helping people access and utilise health services.

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'End of Life' Care in our Region

It's something that many find difficult to talk about, but end of life care planning can improve the management of a patient's health conditions and help to keep people out of hospital unless it is absolutely necessary. And today being "Dying to Know Day" provides us with a great opportunity to talk about this sometimes taboo subject. 

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Welcome to new Board Director, Bruce Turner (AM)

I am pleased to announce that Mr Bruce Turner was appointed as a Director to the Wentworth Healthcare Board on Wednesday. He is a long term Penrith resident and brings a wealth of skills and experience. 

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Our immunisation rates among the best

A government report released last month showed that immunisation rates in our region are amongst the highest in Australia but I was most pleased that we have significantly closed the gap on immunisation among the Aboriginal childhood community.

With 97.5% of five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in our region fully immunised, we are placed second among all Primary Health Networks.

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NAIDOC Week 2017

As the nation celebrates NAIDOC Week, within our region, I was proud to attend the launch of NAIDOC on Monday at Penrith City Council's Civic Reception.

NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. 

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2017 Clinical Paediatric Day

Last month, our Events team coordinated a Clinical Paediatric Day in partnership with Nepean Blue Mountains LHD.

This is an educational event we have been presenting annually, and, now in its fourth year, its audience has continued to climb, with over 75 GPs, primary care nurses and allied health providers from across the region attending this year.

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PHNs delivering Alcohol and Other Drug Services

In October 2015, the Final Report of the National Ice Taskforce was submitted to the Australian Government, detailing strategies to address the high level of drug use - particularly methamphetamine use - in Australia.

A key recommendation from the report was tasking PHNs with the role of ensuring Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) treatment services within their region met the needs of their local population. In response, the Federal Government committed $241.5 million to primary health networks commencing late 2016, to increase AOD treatment services - including addressing methamphetamine use - across Australia.

Our PHN has since been working around the clock to set up a range of new AOD services within our region. 

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A new after hours service provider for Penrith

Our company and its predecessor organisations have been managing the Nepean After Hours GP Clinic for just over 10 years.

The clinic was established in December 2006 by the then Nepean Division of General Practice in response to an identified need for better availability of GP after hours services. The clinic has been staffed by local GPs on a roster and nurse and reception staff. 

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Connecting healthcare professionals online

Every healthcare provider has the aim to improve patient health and our organisation wholeheartedly supports this pursuit. There are opportunities for the healthcare system to be more 'connected' when multiple healthcare professionals manage the care of a patient, although this is often challenging, given the time limitations and pressures our health system faces.

We can play a pivotal role in helping to unite local providers, generating opportunities for them to connect with each other and gain a greater understanding of what other health disciplines can offer a patient... 

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Taking the next steps for Reconciliation

This week is national Reconciliation Week. Our organisation has a history of collaborating with the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community in our region, working with them to identify gaps in services relating to health and take action to close those gaps.

We have extensively partnered with the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Health Coalition, and from that relationship, established programs such as Healthy for Life.

The Closing the Gap program, as well as the Healthy for Life program, were tailored to meet the needs of the local community. Through these programs across the last eight years we have assisted nearly 700 people, and supported dozens of cultural events, such as the NAIDOC Cup and Closing the Gap day.

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Health Care Homes

Recently, the Department of Health announced that Health Care Home services will now have a deferred and phased start, with up to 20 Health Care Homes that are ready to start delivering services commencing on 1 October 2017 and the remainder commencing on 1 December 2017. 

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General Practice Advisory Committee (GPAC)

One of the key strategies outlined in our strategic plan is to develop strong engagement with primary healthcare providers to inform and shape healthcare priorities and improvement. This is essential in order to achieve our mission.

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Health Action Plan Launched for Penrith

In a landmark initiative, NBMPHN, NBMLHD and Penrith City Council have joined forces to develop a Health Action Plan for the Penrith community. The Health Action Plan focuses on health promotion and the prevention and early intervention of health issues.

The collaboration - one involving all three levels of government - marks a significant step in establishing greater community awareness about the importance of health and taking action early when health issues arise. 

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Working with Allied Health

This week, it was my pleasure to attend our Allied Health Advisory Committee meeting. The Allied Health Advisory Committee (AHAC) was established in 2016 to provide a sounding board to our organisation that represents allied health within the region. 

The Committee is an invaluable resource to identify health needs and issues in the allied health space, and provide input on how we can continue to enhance the collaboration between GPs and allied health. 

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Closing the Gap Program Transition

Wentworth Healthcare and its predecessor organisations have been providing the Aboriginal Health Closing the Gap program across the region for the past 7 years.

As part of our move to commission services rather than providing them directly, we undertook an expression of interest and request for proposal process whereby interested organisations submitted an application to take on the delivery of the Closing the Gap program.

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COPD Collaborative an important opportunity for General Practice

Respiratory disease (eg. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease or COPD, Asthma, Influenza and Pneumonia) accounts for approximately 7% of the burden of disease in the Australian population.

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Nepean Blue Mountains Needs Assessment

With World Health Day taking place this week, it is an apt time to launch to the public our region's Needs Assessment 2016/2017.

The Needs Assessment is a comprehensive report outlining the health issues that face the Nepean Blue Mountains region. This document has been an important foundation for our organisation to understand the profile of health in our community and plan services accordingly. So we thought we would publish this in a format that others can also use.

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Raising breast screening awareness in Lithgow

I am a real advocate of health screening programs. Statistics confirm that screening plays a key role in reducing mortality rates through the early detection and treatment of cancer.

In short, cancer screening saves lives and is a priority in our region, as we have communities with some of the lowest screening rates in Australia.

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What is Commissioning?

Since the formation of PHNs in July 2015, we have gradually been making changes to the way we manage the provision of some health services. 

One area of change in particular that warrants greater awareness within the community is the use of a 'commissioning' approach in how we may deliver healthcare services to meet local health needs.

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Mental Health and Alcohol & Drug (AOD) program

This week, I took part in a Workshop with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, in Canberra.

Attended by CEOs from every PHN, this workshop was a terrific opportunity to discuss the best practice approaches to mental health and suicide prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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Healthy for Life program

As we bid farewell to our staff who have delivered the Blue Mountains Healthy for Life program for the last six years, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the successes that have been achieved by this program.

We are very proud of these successes, and have countless stories that show the difference this program has made to the lives of Aboriginal people living in the Blue Mountains. 

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HealthPathways Orientation launch

I was proud to be able to host, together with the Local Health District, the launch of HealthPathways in our region last week. This is an important initiative that will certainly contribute to empowering health professionals to deliver high quality, accessible and integrated primary healthcare. 

The event involved GPs, Practice Nurses, Practice staff, private health professionals specialists and other clinical hospital staff from across the NBM region, and I thank them all for giving up their time to be there. 

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Our region chosen for Health Care Home trial

I am excited to announce that our region has been selected to participate in a major, national trial that aims to improve the treatment of people with chronic diseases (such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, mental health issues, respiratory problems and other conditions).

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Lizz Reay's avatar
Lizz Reay is the CEO of Wentworth Healthcare, provider of NBMPHN. Previously Deputy CEO of Nepean Blue Mountains Medicare Local & Nepean Division of General Practice, she has an extensive background in public health.
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