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12 Jul 2019

BY DR RICHARD KIDD, CHAIR, AMA COUNCIL OF GENERAL PRACTICE

This month, the AMA will be celebrating our nation’s GPs and the central role of general practice in the Australian health system. Each year AMA Family Doctor Week takes the opportunity to recognise the dedication and hard work of GPs right across the country in caring for their patients and delivering quality health care to communities.

The theme for this year’s Family Doctor Week is Your family doctor and you: partnering for health. This theme recognises the partnership between practitioner and patient, between members of a patient’s healthcare team, between GP supervisor and GP registrar, and the one that most needs to be enhanced, between Government and general practice.

The trusted relationship between GPs and their patients underpins patient-centred care and is fundamental to the provision of quality care. Partnering with our patients to ensure the care we provide is respectful of, and responsive to their preferences, needs and values is core to our approach and our ability to provide comprehensive and holistic care. It is one of the reasons most GPs get real satisfaction from their work and the impact they can have on patient outcomes.

This partnership with patients drives us also to partner with other specialists and health professionals to ensure our patients continuity of care on the occasions where services outside our scope of practice are required. Sometimes, these partnerships are within our own practice, where we might bring in psychologists, diabetic educators or pharmacists to support our patients in managing their conditions and medications. At other times they are external to practice, involving other private practising or salaried specialists, aged care facilities, community pharmacies, community services and hospitals. Good two-way communication and access to relevant information to inform patient management and treatment is vital.

For too long though, general practice has not been appropriately funded to deliver all that it could to improve patients’ health, their healthcare experience and their outcomes. There is no doubt in my mind that the GPs of Australia go above and beyond for their patients. We would not be one of the best health systems in world if that were not the case. I don’t need to tell you about the number of hours we spend outside of a face-to-face consultation ensuring our patients are supported and their care coordinated.

It is time that work was funded. It is time we are supported when we need to spend longer with a patient, when we provide services outside of the consultation for our established patients – such as repeat scripts and telehealth services, and to make better use of our healthcare team to triage, monitor patient progress, enhance patient health literacy and support them with self-management.

It is time we had a long-term funding plan to support general practice to evolve and provide more proactive, preventive care, coordinated integrated care and improved patient outcomes. We need Government to partner with us, by investing in us to deliver our patients the best care in the best way.

Another partnership that should not be forgotten is the one between GP Supervisor and GP Registrar. Together, you are the future of our profession. The AMA is working to ensure fair and equitable employment conditions that meet the needs of registrars and supervisors alike. We need to ensure that the attractiveness of GP training is not undermined by inequitable employment conditions.  

The AMA is committed to advocating for and promoting general practice. It’s hardwired into our DNA. Since last Family Doctor Week, AMA advocacy has helped secure a Federal Budget announcement of $448.5 million to improve continuity of care for patients over 70 with chronic conditions, $201.5 million to better fund the Quality Improvement Incentive and retain the Aged Care Access Initiative, $62.2 million for rural generalist training and $187.2 million through the lifting of the freeze on over 100 Medicare items for general practice.

The Minister for Health told AMA National Conference he wants to work with the AMA on a 10 Year Plan for Primary Health Care. As part of that, the AMA wants to see support for general practices to better utilise their multidisciplinary healthcare team in supporting patient care, funding for the work done on behalf of patient outside of the consultation and support for innovative ways of delivering care that improve patient access, health literacy and health outcomes.

We also want to see the introduction of specific MBS telehealth items, the introduction of an extended Level B item, funding to support continuity of care, a re-alignment of the after-hours in-room items, funded dressing to support better wound care and the lifting of caps on the incoming Workforce Incentive to enhance the multidisciplinary breadth within the practice team.

That is our vision for general practice. I invite you to celebrate that vision for general practice with us during Family Doctor Week.


Published: 12 Jul 2019