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27 Jun 2017

By Dr Richard Kidd, Chair, AMA Council of General Practice

Later this month we will again celebrate AMA Family Doctor Week, paying tribute to hard working GPs across the country. This year’s theme is Your family doctor: all about you, sending a clear message to the community about the holistic care provided by GPs and the critical role we play in working with our patients to ensure that they get the best care possible.

Our patients place a great deal of trust in us. This can be seen in recent figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, with nearly 80 per cent of patients having a preferred GP. Over 90 per cent of patients provided positive feedback on their interactions with their family doctor, something we should be proud of.

Given the pressures that general practice has been under over the last few years I think results like this demonstrate the strength, focus and commitment of our nation’s hard working general practitioners.

While the AMA would clearly have preferred to see the MBS indexation freeze lifted immediately in the last Budget, at least there is now a commitment from the Government to ease this over time. The debate on indexation has largely drowned out any discussion about support for general practice, so there is now at least the opportunity to sit down with the Government and other parties to talk about a stronger focus on primary care and real measures to reward quality general practice.

The new Health Minister, following strong advocacy by the AMA, clearly appears to understand the key role played by general practice. This will need to translate into real action at the coal face. In this regard, the AMA is involved in several key policy discussions including Primary Health Networks, Health Care Homes, an opt-out My Health Record and the PIP Quality Improvement Incentive. These need to deliver the support that GPs need to ensure our patients can access quality care, when and where they need it.

The MBS Review has also released its interim report on access to GP after-hours services. These are a critical part of the health system, but there are growing concerns about the commercialisation of the sector and the potential breakdown in the link with a patient’s usual GP. We need to ensure access to medical care in after-hours period where there is a genuine patient need, as part of a collaborative model that ensures continuity of patient care.

Achieving the best health outcomes we can for our patients drives us all, but we often don’t have the data to test how we are performing. As we see reform within the health sector, the outcomes we achieve for our patients are going to be increasingly of interest to those who primarily fund our services. Quality data will be a key driver of improvements in the provision and delivery of health care. The AMA is working to ensure measures of outcome are meaningful, appropriately framed, and utilised, and do not add to administrative burden of busy general practices.

With GP coordinated team based care, Australian general practice will continue to deliver world leading outcomes for our patients. But we can’t do it alone and the AMA will continue to work with Government to ensure it understands it has to invest in general practice to deliver better health outcomes and health expenditure savings for the future. 

Published: 27 Jun 2017