Last weekend the ACT Health Council, under the Chairmanship of Kate Moore,  organised a citizens’ jury in health at the behest of the Minister, Katy Gallagher. It was facilitated by Professor Gavin Mooney, health economist, University of Sydney.

This is Kate Moore’s and Gavin Mooney’s joint report of the proceedings:

“The jury sat on Friday evening and all day Saturday. They were addressed by the Minister and various experts in epidemiology, health economics, health service organisation and delivery, health financing and health care planning and decision making.

The jury worked its way to various recommendations to go to the Minister and which can have quite far reaching effects – especially as the Minister made it very clear that she wants to act on the basis of what the jury recommends.

The Minister argued that she did not see it as an abrogation of her responsibility to ask the jury to come on board in providing her with the views and values and ideas and advice of the critically informed community.

This to us is far from that and indeed is an exhibition of true leadership in being prepared to listen to the community.

Crucially citizens’ juries are different from focus groups: they are randomly selected from the electorate and as such they are told in very clear terms that they are there to represent the community.

They are given good information by experts and allowed to quiz the experts. They are also reminded – forcibly if necessary – that health services suffer from resource constraints and as such, anything they want, they need to arrange to pay for, for example by cutting other services.

This bunch of randomly selected citizens were eminently sensible in their deliberations, very engaged and able and willing to absorb some quite extensive information and then use it to provide challenging but responsible and detailed advice.

They were big on principles, seeking especially a fairer health care system and being able to say in quite precise terms what they meant by fairer.

We would love to bottle some of the discussion around principles and on such matters as deciding who gets services and, given limited resources, who does not, and the ethical dilemmas involved – and present it to politicians of all parties. They could learn so much not only about the capabilities of ‘ordinary  citizens’ but about political principles per se.

We shall report on the findings later which relate to questions of fairness in healthcare delivery, the balance between prevention and cure, information and communication, prioritising diseases, trust and what to give up to achieve more.

These all matter but what we believe matters yet more is this. Ask a random bunch of citizens to sit down together as citizens, get informed and think through on behalf of the community tricky issues around political principles and priorities and they can do it.

Indeed they revel in the role of being a citizen. That normally only happens at elections. More’s the pity!”

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