Dr Harry Nespolon’s GP18 opening plenary speech

newsGP writers

11/10/2018 1:31:51 PM

The RACGP President addressed Australia’s GPs at the GP18 welcome session.

Dr Harry Nespolon spoke at this morning’s GP18 welcome session.
Dr Harry Nespolon spoke at this morning’s GP18 welcome session.

Hello, and welcome to GP18.
I respectfully acknowledge the Yugambeh People, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respect to their Elders past, present and emerging, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here today.
The RACGP annual conference is the biggest event in the general practice calendar, with over 2000 delegates gathered to take stock on the past 12 months and look forward to the future of general practice.
The RACGP leads. We are a strong and united profession, with over 39,000 members who see over two million Australians each week. We are the biggest medical college in Australia and have the largest impact when it comes to our communities’ health.
The past 12 months have been momentous for the profession and the RACGP.
From GP training coming back to its rightful home, to the issues related to the rollout of My Health Record and concerns regarding the medical board, there has certainly been a lot which has required Australian GPs and their healthcare teams to continue to adapt to and plan.
The RACGP has been the centre of many of these changes, continuing on the strong advocacy foundations laid by previous generations.
I’m delighted to announce the release of the Standards for point-of-care testing to assist our practices to continue to allow for practices to provide the best care for their patients. These standards are a new resource provided by the RACGP and are intended to improve the quality and safety of point-of-care testing performed by general practices.
Through developing the Standards for point-of-care testing, the RACGP is laying the foundation for a fit-for-purpose accreditation framework for point-of-care testing in general practices, and will continue to advocate to secure funding.
The data is quite clear; in fact, indisputable. A sustainable, high-quality healthcare system is one where there is a strong relationship between a general practitioner and the patient. This care takes place not in large, generally impersonal monoliths, but in the patient’s community.
So why is it so difficult for governments to invest in general practice?
There are many groups and professions who have and will continue to fill the political voids that we have left over the years.
If we are to ensure that Australia has access to high-quality primary healthcare, where and when patients need it, we must engage with those who make the decisions that affect us as a profession.
Advocacy is not something that can be done from the sidelines and by a small team of players. For us to have the full resonance needed to ensure that action occurs, we must all partake and take responsibility.
The RACGP continues to use its political influence and work strongly with all parts of the political spectrum. This gives us the opportunity to collaborate and advise the policy leaders in our country on the building of a new funding model for Australian healthcare.
A prime example of this is the recent work done with the Australian Digital Health Agency and the Minister for Health around the needed changes for My Health Record.
The college remains committed to the cause of patient and practitioner privacy, as the custodians of best practice. Fighting for these changes and working on these relationships is not always easy or popular. But we must continue to do so, or else we will be left behind.
When we do not stand for something, we will fall for anything. And that is what will happen this coming Federal Election if we do not continue to pull together for primary healthcare’s future.
Be it increasing the rebate for our patients to help them get the healthcare that they need, or ensuring that we as a profession have the best tools that we need to do our job, it is up to us to make sure this will happen.
Without our patients, we are simply not a profession.
Every single patient who walks through our doors has their own unique story, their own family, and their own community. Far too frequently, patients within GP practices are forgotten by the powers who be.
We know from our 2018 General Practice: Health of the Nation report that people know and trust their GP.
This is because we as a profession remain committed to our communities.
Our patients are our biggest asset when it comes to our advocacy.
When a patient knows their GP, trusts their GP, and wants to keep seeing their GP, then we go from a team of 39,000 to a cheer squad of over 20 million Australians.
These are voting Australians, the Australians who vote to decide who is in power.
Just think about that for a moment. That is powerful.
As the RACGP and as general practitioners, we are multi-faceted.
To ensure that we can keep general practice at the centre of Australia’s healthcare, we must ensure we keep up with the growing demands within general practice. We need the support of those who represent our communities.
I want to challenge every single one of you today. I challenge each one of you to make an appointment with your local federal member, no matter what the party.
Go and see them, tell them of what it is like to be a GP, about the care that you provide your patients and how difficult it has been without the ongoing support all sides of politics.
Tell them that nice words are not enough.
Equally importantly, when you do have the time or the opportunity, talk to your patients about the challenges general practice faces.
If every GP just spoke to one patient a week about general practice, over a year we would have spoken to over 1.5 million people – enough to swing most elections.
As a profession, we have not engaged effectively enough in the political process, as we have seen to the detriment of general practice and our patients.
Let’s not be shy, we need to do more. We need to engage at a grassroots level.
GP18 is important on so many levels. It provides significant opportunities to improve our skills as GPs, to help prepare general practice for the future.
Enjoy the many opportunities to network with you colleagues, but think about what practical steps you can take to help protect and nurture the next generation of general practitioners.
Enjoy GP18.

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Max Kamien   12/10/2018 7:51:35 AM

Pretty significant message. Good start for Presidency and for direction of RACGP.