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Revised after hours standards a welcome move

28 Jun 2013

Accreditation standards for general practices regarding the provision of after hours care have been revised following concerns raised by the AMA.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has adjusted its flagged indicators related to the provision of out of hours care after the AMA voiced fears that practices could lose their accreditation and access to Practice Incentive Payments (PIP) without the change.

The AMA wrote to the College early last year warning that the Federal Government’s decision to invest Medicare Locals with responsibility for coordinating after hours care and to phase out PIP funding for out of hours care, had created a radically changed setting for practices that made it potentially very difficult for them to comply with accreditation standards.

“This represents a completely new environment – one where the level of financial support for general practices is less certain, and the availability of local out of hours services will be largely dependent on the decisions of Medicare Locals,” Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, Dr Brian Morton, said.

“The extent to which GPs will have genuine input into the design of out of hours services is also unclear.”

Dr Morton said the changes had made it imperative for the College to reconsider its standards, which had placed significant demands on practices to ensure patients had access to after hours care.

“The reality is that this obligation now rests with Medicare Locals,” Dr Morton said.

“The AMA is pleased to see that the College has responded to these genuine concerns, and that practices will not be unfairly penalised.

“The College has struck the right balance, particularly given the uncertain funding environment and the role now played by Medicare Locals.”

Under the revised standards, practices will be required to demonstrate that they are aware of arrangements to enable their patients to get after hours care, and that they have process in place to inform patients of the arrangements.

28 June 2013

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Published: 28 Jun 2013