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06 Dec 2018

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

As 2018 rushes to a close I want to reflect on some of the AMA’s activities this year in supporting GPs in their role as the primary provider of medical care. The primacy of the role that the usual GP and their general practice plays in a patient’s health care is something that the AMA steadfastly defends. Throughout this year we have strongly advocated for an improvement to GP funding to sustain and nourish general practice in effectively delivering patient-centred quality care and in meeting the health care needs of the community.

GP services are in high demand as the population ages, complex and chronic disease become more prevalent, and poor lifestyle choices add to the risk for and burden of disease. Yet, general practice is the most efficient and cost-effective part of Australia’s health system. Given the increasing cost pressures general practices have experienced over the years, this is a true testament to the general practice profession.

While the Federal Budget this year made some down-payments towards improving GP funding, much more is required to support our vision for general practice into the future. A vision that involves general practice being supported as its patients’ medical home and that strengthens and supports team-based care. A vision that involves GPs being rewarded for the non-face-to-face work involved in caring for patients, that enables better access to quality GP care to patients in aged care facilities and at home, that supports greater use of technology to enhance access to care and its continuity and delivery. A vision that ensures quality improvement is supported and rewarded.

The Government must invest, and invest significantly, to make this vision a reality.

This is a message that AMA leadership and advocacy has continually impressed upon key politicians and around Commonwealth departmental meeting tables throughout the year.

Our proposal and advocacy for the integration of non-dispensing pharmacists into general practice to enhance medication management resulted in incentive reforms that will see practices further supported to build their practice-based health care teams. From July 1 2019, the Workforce Incentive Program will see the provisions of the Practice Nurse Incentive Program expanded to include non-dispensing pharmacists and allied health providers for all eligible general practices regardless of location.

While the MBS Review process has had its issues, when it comes to general practice and primary care the AMA is optimistic that our message around improved rebates, the centrality of the GP to the health system and to patient care has resonated. The AMA is keen to see the recommendations of the MBS Review Taskforce in this space support longitudinal care, patient centred and multi-disciplinary care, and provide for enhanced access via telehealth services.

Finally, the AMA, through a number of submissions, in our discussions and representations, has worked hard to convey the risks to patient care and health system expenditure of moves that would fragment primary care. Proposals for inappropriate expansions of scopes of practice, prescribing rights, and models of care that would see skilled GPs excluded from elements of the cradle to grave care they provide have been and will continue to be stridently argued against.

The coming year, I’m sure, will provide many more opportunities for the AMA to advocate for and support general practice.

In the meantime I wish you all safe and happy holidays. 


Published: 06 Dec 2018