A year of progress and change

Matt Woodley

20/12/2019 2:41:12 PM

As 2019 comes to an end, newsGP looks back on what has been a significant year for Australian general practice.

2019 in review
Clinical, professional, RACGP: it was a big year for general practice.

The past 12 months have been a major shake-up for general practice and healthcare in Australia.
Some of these changes have been received positively, while others – such as mandatory reporting legislation – are viewed as a step backwards.
Pill-testing captured the attention of the nation early in the year, as politicians, medical groups, police and the general population debated the best response to what is a horrifying trend.
The conversation is ongoing, but something on which all sides of the discussion seem to agree is that too many people, particularly young people, are losing their lives in a manner that is entirely preventable.
The Federal Election provided another opportunity for general practice to find its voice, and the college grabbed it with both hands, asking ‘Who will care for all Australians?’.
General practice continues to be underfunded, but as the risks become ever clearer, the message appears to gaining traction and decision-makers across the country are understanding how vital primary care is to the health of the nation.
But there are still areas in which the RACGP is having to fight for patient welfare and world-class healthcare.
One of these areas is ‘continued overreach’ from pharmacy, particularly in relation to prescribing. GPs have regularly documented the risks, but the challenge that remains appears to be communicating the message in a manner that cuts through the influence exerted by powerful lobby groups that seem to be intent on representing their own interests.
Other ongoing crises have precipitated royal commissions into aged care, disability and mental health.
To that end, GP19 served to highlight the advocacy work the RACGP has conducted throughout the year, while also communicating the future direction of the college and general practice in Australia.
It also provided the chance to recognise some of the individual work being undertaken by GPs across Australia. From major cities, to the most remote towns in the nation, GPs continue to have a positive impact across the country.
It also indirectly provided the opportunity to again discuss the importance of burnout, as well as doctor mental health and wellbeing.
The RACGP has indicated it will continue to advocate for members and the role of GPs in this area in the face of policies that have been described as counterproductive by college representatives such as RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett.
Moreover, the college has been deeply involved in ethical and existential challenges that have generated widespread public interest.
Voluntary assisted dying is now legal in Victoria and Western Australia, while other states are investigating its possible implementation. GPs have provided expertise to help both shape the debate, and also ensure that when implemented it continues to function in its intended manner.
GPs have also attempted to manage clinical challenges complicated by those outside of the profession through ambivalence or sometimes outright misinformation.
Events in Samoa have been given as an example of what happens when beliefs overtake evidence-based medicine.
But despite all that has happened in 2019, one of the main messages that has permeated throughout the year on social media and other areas of member feedback is that being ‘Just a GP’ will remain a rewarding profession in 2020 and beyond.
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