Crisis Summit White Paper released

Matt Woodley

25/11/2022 5:56:22 PM

Headline recommendations include an immediate increase to Medicare rebates, tripling the bulk billing incentive, and a reduction in red tape.

RACGP leaders with Mark Butler.
The White Paper was hand-delivered to Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler by RACGP leadership earlier in the week.

The General Practice Crisis Summit White Paper has been released, featuring a host of recommendations to improve the state of general practice and ensure its vital work continues in the face of increasing challenges.
The document, which stems from the Crisis Summit held in Canberra last month, highlights solutions for general practice reform and features contributions from GP leaders, peak bodies, health organisations, consumer representatives, clinicians, and academics.
Reflecting the discussions at the Summit, the White Paper affirms that decades of significant underfunding and cost-cutting has left general practice on the brink of collapse, with high upfront costs affecting vulnerable patients’ access to timely care and future doctors discouraged from pursuing a career in general practice, leading to a growing shortage of GPs.
Former RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price, who convened the Summit, has urged the Federal Government to act.
‘This White Paper tells us what many GPs have been saying for years – general practice care is on life support and reform is urgently needed,’ she said.
‘There are many positive, forward-thinking solutions in this White Paper. Whilst not all are endorsed RACGP policy, they are all centred around the same outcome – securing the future of general practice care in Australia so no patients are left behind.’
Professor Price says a consensus emerged at the summit that primary care funding is ‘woefully inadequate’ and at odds with Australia’s healthcare reality.
‘Funding for patient care through general practice constitutes just 7.4% of total government healthcare expenditure in Australia, which is completely counterintuitive given that GPs are the most accessible doctors seeing almost 90% of Australian patients every year, and GPs prevent people ending up in hospital with urgent health problems,’ she said.
‘The Medicare Benefits Schedule has remained largely unchanged since its inception almost 40 years ago and was designed before the management of complex chronic disease was commonplace. In 2022, we have increasing rates of chronic disease, an ageing population, and a much more complex health system, so the funding system simply isn’t fit for purpose.
‘Medicare rebates have not kept pace with the cost of providing high-quality care and without real reform backed by strong investment, the future of general practice care looks bleak.
‘No one wants patients in any community to miss out on the care they need, yet we are sleep walking toward that inevitably happening.’
The White Paper includes a range of recommendations that were raised on the day by the broad range of participants. Those that generated the most support include:

  • an immediate increase to Medicare rebates for general practice by at least 20%
  • the tripling of the bulk-billing incentive
  • regular indexation of Medicare rebates and other general practice payments by an independent body
  • reducing red tape in general practice, including streamlining and simplifying the Medicare system
  • re-introducing a program of junior doctor placements in general practice
  • developing an overarching data strategy for general practice.
The RACGP has called for an immediate increase in Medicare patient rebates of at least 20% and a threefold increase to the bulk-billing incentive in the wake of the White Paper, which was hand-delivered to Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler earlier in the week.
The college is also calling for appropriate and ongoing indexation for MBS items to reflect the real-world costs of providing high quality care in communities across the country.
Adjunct Professor Price said that considering the training of a GP specialist takes around 10 years, the time to act is now.
‘The evidence is clear that general practice is in crisis and this is impacting the health and wellbeing of people in communities across Australia, who are struggling to access and afford the care they need,’ she said.
‘Without genuine change, the future of patient care is in jeopardy. More people will struggle to access a GP and bulk billing will continue to collapse, making it harder for people to get the care they need when they need it.
‘It is not a stretch to predict health outcomes declining and missed opportunities for preventive care putting more people in hospital. This will be felt most acutely by patients in rural and remote areas, and patients who are financially disadvantaged.’
She also reinforced the importance of there being enough GPs to ensure equitable access to care across Australia.
‘Everyone needs access to high-quality care no matter their income or postcode,’ she said.
‘A key part of this is ensuring junior doctors have opportunities to experience general practice for themselves and understand what a rewarding and diverse career it can be.
‘We also need to make sure that junior doctors who do choose to specialise in general practice aren’t at a disadvantage compared to other medical specialties.’
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Dr Ponnuthurai Paransothy   29/11/2022 12:37:13 PM

We are burned out and exhausted due to Pandemic management . I appeal to the Health department and Medicare officers to visit to GP clinics and to find out the real situation.

Dr Peter JD Spafford   3/12/2022 10:16:33 PM

It was only about 10 years ago we were promised a "Tsumami" of doctors from new medical school placements!!! Where are they??? This is more political nonsense from the RACGP and the government.