RACGP lays marker on the central role of specialist GPs

Matt Woodley

29/10/2020 4:44:51 PM

A new college position statement outlines general practice’s ‘indisputable’ position at the forefront of Australia’s health system.

Final jigsaw piece
Dr Michael Wright, Chair of RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform, described general practice as ‘the glue in the system’.

The document, published this week, includes a detailed breakdown of the varying spaces GPs occupy in Australia’s healthcare landscape, highlights opportunities for reform, and identifies challenges that must be met in order to protect the long-term viability of the profession.
It also calls on ‘all Australian governments, health professionals and key stakeholders’ to recognise the distinctive facets of general practice, referring to the RACGP’s Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system (the Vision) as a pathway towards a sustainable model of high-quality, patient-centred care.
RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda told newsGP the statement is an important document that solidifies specialist GPs’ role in the wider healthcare system and establishes a clear direction for future scope of practice.
‘General practice’s frontline role in combatting the major health issues that confront society – from managing mental health issues and chronic disease, to providing disaster relief and tackling the global coronavirus pandemic – is indisputable,’ he said.
‘Despite this, attempts at sidelining GPs and encroaching on our scope of practice are increasing. Structural reform is vitally needed to ensure it remains an attractive career option for our best and brightest medical students well into the future.
‘This resource provides a powerful counterpoint to competing interests who would see this reform delayed and the role of general practice further diminished.
‘It is now imperative that we utilise the Vision – our blueprint for a modern, effective and efficient health system – to advocate for not only GPs, but the overall health of the nation.’
The position statement identifies general practice’s undervalued place in the healthcare system, expanding scope of practice from less qualified health professionals, and inadequate funding as the main challenges threatening the future of the profession.
It also highlights issues with the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and subsequent out-of-pocket costs and areas of concern, especially in the context of an expanding and ageing population with increasing levels of chronic disease.
Dr Michael Wright, Chair of RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform, told newsGP the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the problems with a fragmented health system and demonstrated the need for GPs to work with patients and help manage all of their care.
‘The role of the generalist to support a person navigating their way through a complex health system has never been more important,’ he said.
‘Often GPs get overlooked, because it’s seen as the leftover work that isn’t fixed up by other people. But it’s actually invaluable work that is essentially the glue in the system.
‘We’re the only part of the health system that has such broad oversight, and that’s a crucial component of the health system and one that needs to be supported.’
Dr Wright said GPs need the support of both Government and colleagues from other specialties in order to properly carry out their work and properly care for patients.
He also warned that the Medicare freeze had a major effect on the viability of general practice – to the detriment of patient care – as has other professions’ attempts at encroaching on the work of GPs.
‘There are also lots of other professionals who are trying to “cherry pick” little pieces off of what GPs do. But that’s just further fragmenting the care that people are getting,’ he said.
‘We don’t need more people doing the same work that GPs do, when access to general practice is so high and at such low cost.
‘We just need to support the GPs to do more of that work, but also to integrate it more into the health system and other providers.’
According to Dr Wright, the time for change is now.
‘The RACGP has put out its Vision, which shows the place that GPs can and should have in our health system – helping patients get the appropriate care at the right time, at the right place, and with good value,’ he said.
‘Given that we’re going into planned budget deficits due to COVID, now is as good a time as any to move the system in the right direction and start placing generalism at the centre of the health system.’
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Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko   30/10/2020 8:41:58 AM

A very valid and much needed document. It’s time we take a stand on the true value and role of Specialist GPs. Let’s hope Governments and decision makers listen and act.

Dr Oliver Frank   30/10/2020 8:42:16 AM

Well done, RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform and well said, Michael Wright.

I looked for a button or link on the Vision for General Practice pages to send comments and suggestions, but could not find one.

The statement in the section: ' A Vision for Change' that says: "When patients are unable to physically attend their practice, they should be able to appropriately communicate with their GP by phone or email." needs to be updated to include video consultations.

Dr John Anthony Crimmins   3/11/2020 11:44:18 AM

Can the college committee chair point members towards the fine detail of voluntary patient enrollments. Exactly how will this be implemented.
In rural towns with large patient to GP ratios there is already patient enrollment due to tyranny of access but how will this work for practices in cities and larger towns where lower patient to GP numbers means GPs are competing with each other to make a living.
Will there be a process that involves a PHN? Is it a tender process?