President’s update on advocacy efforts

21 Jan 2021

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid has written an update for members about the AMA’s activities over the last six months, and the priorities for the year ahead. 

The Presidents message included a summary of AMA advocacy and wins around COVID-19, vaccination and general practice. GPs may be interested the following key points from his message: 

  • COVID-19 - The AMA led the profession in advocating early and hard for appropriate actions to control the spread of the virus, supporting our State and Federal Governments as they brought in restrictions and border controls. These activities remain works in progress, and COVID-19 will continue to dominate our public advocacy in 2021.  

  • Vaccines - The AMA has been in constant discussions with the TGA, the Department of Health, and Health Minister Greg Hunt about supply chains, safety, efficacy, and the critical role of general practice in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines to the wider population. After extensive lobbying, the AMA has GPs on two Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) Working Groups that are looking at the COVID-19 vaccine. This ensures the AMA will have significant insight into vaccine development and input into the implementation of any vaccine rollout.  

  • Telehealth - After years of AMA advocacy, Medicare-funded telehealth item numbers were made available on a temporary basis and gradually tweaked to make them more fit-for-purpose.  The AMA is pleased that telehealth item numbers are intended to be made permanent. We are still working with Government and other stakeholders, including the RACGP, on the detailed planning. It is expected that access to GP telehealth will be linked to voluntary patient enrolment and we are working to ensure that rebates for telephone consults are at the same level as video consults at least during an implementation phase. 

  • Workforce/Distribution/Training - The AMA continues to represent the profession in discussions with government around GP workforce planning and distribution. We have led calls for changes to the model of employment for GP registrars to make GP training more attractive to doctors in training. We have engaged in discussions with all stakeholders and recently held a planning session with many of those stakeholders. The AMA released its updated Vision Statement for GP Training in December, calling for consideration of a single employer model and other measures to ensure general practice continues to be a desirable career option. The Department has agreed to include the AMA on a key advisory group to provide direction on potential GP training reforms. 

  • Primary Care Reform - The AMA‘s Delivering Better Care for Patients: The AMA 10-Year Framework for Primary Care Reform highlights the central role of general practice in health care. It identifies immediate funding goals to ease the financial pressures on GPs, and long-term reforms that must be implemented as part of the Federal Government’s 10-year Primary Health Care Plan.  We have successfully advocated for reforms to remove the requirement for GP CPD to be reported via the GP Colleges, and to allow GPs to access to A1 rebates directly linked to their specialty recognition with the Medical Board of Australia. The Government has maintained its commitment to a voluntary patient registration scheme, which will underpin blended funding mechanisms to better support general practices in delivery of value-based, longitudinal, and comprehensive care. There have also been improvements to incentives to support doctors working in rural areas and general practices, but clearly there is much more work to do.