Evaluation of the National External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program

3.3 Effective integration of the program within the broader policy environment

Page last updated: 05 November 2010

The National Service Improvement Framework for Cancer (National Health Priority Action Council, 2006) sets out the government's approach to cancer, including early detection and treatment, ongoing care, and provision of management and support during and after treatment, including practical issues. The program, in addressing a very practical need for women who have had a mastectomy due to breast cancer, addresses this key intervention point of the framework. The framework also points out the need to improve services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people in rural and remote areas. In establishing a nationally consistent scheme through Medicare Australia, the program increases the opportunity for women in rural and remote areas to access the same level of support for the cost of a breast prosthesis as that available to women in metropolitan regions. There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women may not have as much access to the program, however it is not possible to make a definitive statement regarding this and it may be that women living in urban areas have better information about the program than women living in more remote communities.

The program is also clearly identified as a component of the Commonwealth Government's approach to cancer care as stated in the recently released paper, Delivering Better Cancer Care (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010). The program provides a counterpart for the increasing focus on breast cancer and investment in screening, early detection and treatment, providing support to women after the cancer has been detected and treated, as women live with the ongoing consequences of the loss of a breast due to breast cancer.

The program complements other government breast cancer initiatives through the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC), Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and the McGrath Foundation, which focus on treatment and support for women with breast cancer. Information about the program is actively disseminated by all of these organisations to eligible women who may benefit from the program.

Issues for consideration as to how the program might be improved to ensure that the program fully meets the needs of eligible women are discussed below (section 3.4) and in chapter 5 of this report.