Outlining changes to urgent after-hours items

Paul Hayes

28/02/2018 2:26:19 PM

The Federal Government’s changes to urgent after-hours Medicare rebates will take effect from 1 March.

Changes to urgent after-hours Medicare rebates will take effect from 1 March.
Changes to urgent after-hours Medicare rebates will take effect from 1 March.

Thursday 1 March will see a major change in Australia’s after-hours healthcare sector, with the introduction of differential rebates for doctors providing urgent after-hours care who are vocationally registered and on a pathway to Fellowship.
First announced by Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt in December 2017, the changes to urgent after-hours items followed a review of the sector and the recommendations put forward by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce (the Taskforce). They are designed to better reflect the level of doctors’ qualification and ultimately mean patients will receive more financial support for after-hours visits provided by qualified doctors.
‘From 1 March, GPs will receive a greater level of financial support for after-hours visits, compared with non-GPs in metropolitan areas,’ Minister Hunt said in December. ‘The Taskforce found that access to urgent after-hours care should be used only when necessary and that funding should be appropriate to the level of care being provided.’
Key changes from 1 March 2018
Urgent after-hours assessment defined
The rules for urgent after-hours items will define a patient’s medical condition as requiring urgent assessment if:

  • medical opinion is to the effect that the patient’s medical condition requires assessment within the unbroken after-hours period in which the urgent after-hours attendance was requested
  • assessment could not be delayed until the start of the next in-hours period.
Changes to pre-booking rules
The patient or a responsible person must request an attendance in the same unbroken after-hours period, and not before. All new items reflect this requirement.
Adjustment to items and patient rebates
The changes to the urgent after-hours MBS items:
  • introduce new items and/or rebates for other medical practitioners (OMPs) billing urgent attendances in the sociable after-hours period
  • modify the urgent after-hours items available to GPs, general practice registrars and medical practitioners participating in the After-hours Other Medical Practitioners (AHOMPs) program.

Items 597 and 598 will be replaced by items 585, 588, 591 and 594. Items 599 and 600 will be retained but with modifications.
The urgent after-hours period is split into two timeframes (sociable and unsociable):

Attendance period Timeframe
Monday–Friday Saturday Sunday and/or public holiday
Sociable hours Between 7–8am and 6–11pm Between 7–8am and 12–11pm Between 7am – 11pm
Unsociable hours Between 11pm – 7am Between 11pm – 7am Between 11pm – 7am

More detailed information on the changes is available on the RACGP website.

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Dheyaa Ali   2/03/2018 3:33:04 PM

could you please make it clear as time table showed the item number and the hours with the rebate

newsGP   2/03/2018 4:05:20 PM

Thanks for the comment Dr Ali. Full details of the changes can be found here: or by clicking the link at the bottom of the article.