RACGP open to building urgent care clinics on existing infrastructure

Matt Woodley

13/04/2022 5:52:16 PM

The college says the bulk billing clinics – projected to cost $135 million over four years – must not duplicate or fragment care.

GP tending to patient.
The RACGP has long been calling for support for after-hours access for acute care in general practice.


A focus on community-based health services has been welcomed by the RACGP, after Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese promised to fund 50 urgent care clinics designed to ease pressure on emergency departments.
However, the college has said any clinics should build on existing infrastructure and utilise established general practices.
If elected, the Labor-proposed bulk billing clinics would reportedly be based in general practices and community health centres, and be able to treat non-life-threatening injuries such as sprains, broken bones, wounds, minor ear and eye problems, and minor burns.
Responding to the announcement, RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price said she would be open to considering a model that does not fragment care.
‘While we need to work through the detail of this proposal, a model that seeks to reduce duplication of primary care services and build on existing general practice clinics and infrastructure is something we would be happy to explore,’ she said.
‘We have long been calling for support for after-hours access for acute care in general practice – this should take place in suitably resourced GP-led clinics, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
‘I also want to stress that a pilot must not end there, and if it is successful, it should be rolled out to general practices around the country.’
But Professor Price also stressed that easing pressure on Australia’s healthcare system ‘requires more than just physical infrastructure’.
‘Ensuring there is adequate support for the general practice workforce is key,’ she said. We need more highly trained specialist GPs on the frontline to provide the care that people need.’
Having delivered the vast majority of the nearly 35 million COVID vaccine doses administered via primary care, the RACGP President said it is now time for general practice to receive its own ‘shot in the arm’ to ensure everyone living in Australia has access to healthcare.
‘Everyone deserves access to high-quality and affordable healthcare, no matter their postcode,’ Professor Price said.
‘It’s time for government to enact the reforms needed to make it happen.’
The Opposition proposal was announced on the same morning that the RACGP called on ‘whoever wins government’ to properly fund primary care in Australia and enact healthcare reform.
Specifically, the college point to its Federal Election Statement, which advocates for:

  • new service incentive payments to improve regular, continuous, and preventive care for older people
  • increasing Medicare rebates for patients who need longer appointments with their GP
  • retaining telehealth rebates for patients to have longer telehealth consultations with their GP via telephone
  • a new service incentive payment for patients with mental health issues that supports the grouping of services, including a GP mental health treatment plan and a physical health assessment
  • a new service incentive payment for people living with disability that provides for a health assessment and completion of National Disability Insurance Scheme reports and documentation
  • introducing additional support for GPs to see their patient within seven days of an unplanned hospital admission or emergency department presentation
  • greater investment in rural healthcare, including increasing Workforce Incentive Programs with additional payments for GPs who use advanced skills in rural areas and providing access to the relevant specialty Medicare Benefits Schedule items when a GP holds advanced skills in areas such as mental health or paediatrics.
Professor Price said GPs and general practice teams are ‘too often’ taken for granted, and that primary care should be at the forefront of this year’s federal election campaign.
‘GPs, practice managers, nurses, receptionists and administrative workers are needed now by their communities more than ever before,’ she said.
‘Everyone agrees that investment in GP services is a high priority. We’ve done the reviews, we’ve done the consultations, and now it’s time to act.
‘So, in the first days of the campaign hustings I urge all parties and candidates of all persuasions to put general practice first, because our patients deserve nothing less.’

*This article was updated at 5.14 pm on Thursday 14 April to emphasise the RACGP’s stance that any clinics should be built on existing general practice infrastructure.
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Dr Erika Fuji Nishimoto   14/04/2022 10:42:03 PM

The concept of an urgent care clinic is not new. I have worked in urgent care in the U.K. for 2 years after having a background in emergency medicine, rural medicine and city general practice for over 20 years in Australia and the UK. Urgent care means emergency care to the layperson, and up to 50% of the time results in an admission to hospital. In the UK, the general practitioners working in urgent care work like emergency doctors and are involved in resuscitations. In fact, although we didn’t accept ambulances, people would often take a taxi and then come in being carried as they didn’t want to go to an emergency department despite being septic or in cardiac failure and would still need admission! All urgent care centres were located in hospitals so it was well supported by the specialists and ED.
I don’t favour the idea as it sends the wrong message to public and will confuse and further stress the system. Spending more on televised education of the public would be more beneficia