Department of Health

Key messages

  • For many Victorians, planned surgery (also known as elective surgery) can make a significant difference to a person’s quality of life.
  • Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health system, as well as Victoria’s growing and ageing population, many people are waiting for surgery.
  • Through our planned surgery recovery and reform program, we are making long-term, sustainable changes so that more Victorians can get the safe, high-quality care they need, when they need it.

    • Transcript

      Hi, I'm Professor Ben Thomson. I'm the Director of Surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. I'm also Victoria's Chief Surgical Adviser. I provide the Victorian Government with clinical advice about changes being made to planned surgery, also known as elective surgery.

      IMAGE: Ben is speaking directly to the camera, standing in an operating theatre. He’s wearing blue scrubs and surgical cap.

      In Victoria, we have a growing and ageing population and, along with the pandemic, this has put a lot of pressure on our health system. As a result, more people are waiting for surgery than ever before. That's why we're making long-term changes to better look after Victorians.

      IMAGE: A view of Flinders Street. The traffic lights have just changed and there are crowds of people crossing by foot and on bike.

      Over the next couple of years, we're going to increase the number of surgeries that take place in the public system. We’ve created new public surgery centres, including in Frankston and Blackburn.

      IMAGE: In the reception area of the Blackburn public surgery centre, staff are working behind a wood-panelled desk. There is a large sign with ‘Eastern Health Blackburn’, and Aboriginal art in the background.

      We're building new public hospitals and working with private hospitals to treat more patients on the public waitlist. We'll also increase the number of day surgeries so more patients can recover in the comfort of their own home.

      To do more surgeries, we’ll need more resources, so we're supporting hospitals to get the latest equipment and best technology to do more safe, high-quality procedures. We're going to train and develop current staff and recruit new staff to increase the size and strength of our workforce.

      IMAGE: Medical staff wearing blue scrubs and colourful surgical hats are working in an operating theatre under bright lights.

      Finally, we’ll empower patients through better information sharing and choices. This includes letting patients know about their treatment options, making sure they're well prepared for surgery, and supporting them afterwards to achieve the best outcomes.

      IMAGE: A women sits in an office with a window in the background. She is wearing a mask, talking on the phone and taking notes.

      Dedicated hospital staff will check in with people on the waitlist more regularly to ensure they receive the information they need. We'll also make it easier to access safe and appropriate non-surgical treatment options such as physiotherapy.

      Improvements from these changes may take time, but they will provide long-lasting change so more Victorians can access safe, high-quality care when they need it.

      For more information, search ‘surgery’ on the Better Health Channel.

    About the program

    Our Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform program is creating long-term, sustainable changes to planned surgery (also known as elective surgery). This aims to provide Victorians with better and more timely health outcomes.

    The Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform program is:

    • Increasing the number of public surgeries delivered
      • We are investing in new public hospital infrastructure. This includes the establishment of the Frankston and Blackburn public surgical centres. These are hospitals dedicated to planned surgery. We are also expanding and enhancing existing hospital capacity through hospital improvements, which is known as the Rapid Access Hub program.
      • We are working with private hospitals to treat more patients on the public waitlist.
    • Boosting surgical resources
      • We are helping hospitals to improve their surgical equipment and diagnostic machines, including via the Surgical Equipment Innovation FundExternal Link . This ensures they have the latest technology supporting them to treat more patients faster.
      • We are training and developing current staff, and recruiting new staff, to help strengthen and build our surgical workforce.
    • Empowering patients through better information sharing and choices
      • We are funding dedicated hospital staff, known as Patient Support Units, to check in with people on surgical waitlists more regularly. This aims to improve communication between hospitals and patients.
      • We are making it easier for patients to access safe and appropriate non-surgical treatment options, such as physiotherapy. This gives Victorians more choice about how they manage their health.

    Clinical expertise and advice

    We have appointed a Chief Surgical Adviser to work with a Surgery Recovery Taskforce and provide the Victorian Government with clinical expertise and advice. They will support the delivery of the Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform program, and drive long-term improvements and system changes.

    Chief Surgical Adviser

    ben thomson

    Professor Ben Thomson was appointed as Victoria’s Chief Surgical Adviser in April 2022.

    Ben is a general surgeon that specialises in disorders of the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and bile duct. He is the Director of Surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and works as a trauma and general surgeon and cancer surgeon at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. As part of his cancer work, he travels to see patients in rural Victoria (Wangaratta and Albury Wodonga).

    Ben trained in Victoria and in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has worked for more than 25 years in Victorian public hospitals. He is also a clinical professor at the University of Melbourne and a board member of the Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand Hepatic, Pancreatic and Biliary Association.

    “As Chief Surgical Adviser, I'm working closely with health services, the department and the Surgical Recovery and Reform taskforce to address deferred care as quickly and safely as possible, while creating sustainable, long-term change to improve practice and efficiency across the sector."

    "As we are developing and implementing these reforms, patient experience and health outcomes is at the centre of all we do.”

    – Professor Ben Thomson

    Surgery Recovery and Reform Taskforce

    The Surgery Recovery and Reform Taskforce was established in June 2022 to advise on implementing the program, including identifying further reform opportunities, driving improvements, and providing sector advice.

    The Chief Surgical Adviser co-chairs the taskforce with the department's Deputy Secretary of Commissioning and System Improvement.

    Taskforce members represent the healthcare and surgical workforces, consumers, peak bodies and government.

    This diverse group offers valuable perspectives and insights on sustainable system recovery in Victoria. Their contributions to the program will help shape and drive implementation of our planned surgery reforms, ensuring they are practical and transformative.

    Information for patients

    As part of the Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform program, a number of new initiatives are being introduced.

    To learn about planned surgery more broadly, visit the Better Health ChannelExternal Link .

    Information for the health sector

    The health sector is integral to helping us shape the future of planned surgery.

    The Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform program presents multiple opportunities for health services to drive innovation, form beneficial partnerships, and create meaningful change for planned surgery patients.

    For individual clinicians, there is also significant opportunity for knowledge sharing and professional development, including:

    • updates via our monthly Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform Sector Bulletin
    • access to information and resources via our Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform SharePoint site
    • participation in our Health Service Partnership Delivery and Innovation Teams Community of Practice
    • webinars on best practice and new and emerging developments in planned surgery
    • invitations to events where you can share your thoughts and ideas.

    If you are a member of the health sector and would like to learn more about the program and how you can be involved, contact the Planned Surgery Recovery and Reform team via

    Reviewed 25 October 2023


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