The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded a response unprecedented in modern times. It required NSW Health to implement an emergency response as a whole system, while also ensuring it continued to meet the ongoing healthcare needs of the NSW community. NSW Health is committed to learning from the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic to plan for future responses to public health emergencies and in 2022, the Secretary, NSW Health commissioned Robyn Kruk AO to conduct a debrief on the lessons learned from NSW Health’s operational response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The debrief covered the period from February 2020 to March 2022. It did not explore budgetary decisions, decisions of the Australian Government and NSW Governments, or the nature of Public Health Orders (PHOs).
Through more than 75 consultations and focus sessions, the Debrief spoke to more than 350 stakeholders across the NSW Health system as well as a wide range of government and external service providers, Primary Health Networks (PHNs), Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs), Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs), unions, medical colleges, peak bodies, aged care service providers, disability service providers, and people with disability. The Debrief process provided a safe, cathartic, and empowering opportunity for people to share their experiences confidentially, contributing to both a historical reflection of what people did and what happened, but what could have been done better, and what to do better in any future pandemic.
The report, As one system: The NSW Health System’s Response to COVID-19, describes the strengths of the response, identifies the challenges encountered, and draws a wide range of lessons and improvement opportunities for the system. An Executive Summary was also prepared, as a succinct version of the entire report.
In conjunction with commissioning the report conducted by Ms Kruk, NSW Health has also conducted its own, extensive debrief report, which reflects specifically, and in detail, on the public health aspects of NSW Health’s COVID-19 response.
This debrief supports the report by Ms Kruk, using extensive consultation to identify best practices and areas that require strengthening, and to provide implementable recommendations for a stronger and more integrated public health network now and into the future.
The As one system report put forward six recommendations (with 29 specific priorities) and five action areas (with 30 actions in detail). The Secretary has accepted the six recommendations to strengthen NSW Health’s emergency preparedness and welcomed the five action areas put forward to maintain and reinforce existing strengths within NSW Health and implementation planning is now underway. Health will report on progress by November 2023.
An Executive summary - As one system: The NSW Health system's response to COVID-19 is also available.