Productivity Commission report shows need for improved investment in general practice
Australia’s 37,000 GPs are providing more services than ever before, with patient satisfaction ratings of more than 90 per cent, the latest Productivity Commission report shows.
The annual Report on Government Services (ROGS) found that GPs provided around 160.3 million Medicare services to patients around Australia in 2017-18.
However, it also found a rise in the number of avoidable presentations to public hospital emergency departments, giving weight to the AMA’s Pre-Budget Submission call for greater investment in general practice.
About 2.9 million people – an increase of 20,000 – presented at EDs for ailments that could have been more easily and cost-effectively treated by a GP, the report said.
AMA Federal Councillor, Dr Chris Moy, said it was important not to blame the patient.
“It’s not the patient’s fault if they’re sick, they need medical care, but unfortunately it is the result of long-term, short-sighted funding, where the funding has really not tended to be going to general practice,” Dr Moy told ABC TV.
“You have situations, particularly in aged care for example, where the patient is actually very unwell with a urinary tract infection, and there may not be a GP available, and so the patient will therefore have to be transferred to hospital.
“A general practice visit is funded to the tune of about just under $40 – the same amount as a men’s haircut – whereas the cost that the community bears when someone goes to hospital is about $600 a visit, before the ambulance callout.
“It is a result of short-sighted long-term funding from both governments, I’m afraid, in terms of freezes to Medicare. We’ve ended up in a really distorted situation – we don’t have a situation where prevention is the best cure.”
AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said it was imperative that both major parties spelled out their long-term vision for the Australian health system, with general practice front and centre, ahead of the upcoming Federal Election.
“GPs are working harder but are feeling the squeeze from underinvestment in Medicare rebates for patients and general practice across the board,” Dr Bartone said.
“With over a third of GPs aged over 55, we need to do more to resource and encourage a career in general practice so the community can continue to access the high quality care they need and deserve.
“Government spending on GP services is currently about 8 per cent of total Government spending on health. The AMA is calling for this to be lifted over time to about 10 per cent of total Government health spending.
“This will lead to long-term savings to the health system, and improved health outcomes by keeping patients out of hospital.”
The AMA Pre-Budget Submission is at https://ama.com.au/sites/default/files/budget-submission/AMA_Budget_Submission_2019_20.pdf
Key findings of the Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2019:
- In 2017-18, Australia had 36,938 GPs working full-time and part-time, equating to 25,149 on a Full Service Equivalent (FSE) basis;
- Rates of service used per annum remained steady at 6.5 per annum per head of population;
- 4 per cent of the population reported that they delayed or did not visit a GP in the previous 12 months due to cost, down from 4.1 per cent in 2016-17;
- 7 per cent reported that they had delayed or did not purchase prescribed medicines in the previous 12 months due to cost;
- Around 73 per cent of patients could get a GP appointment within 24 hours;
- 8 per cent said the GP always or often listened to them;
- 1 per cent said that the GP always or often showed them respect;
- 7 per cent said the GP always spent enough time with them.
Published: 01 Feb 2019