Government must properly fund general practice to ensure Australians’ health: RACGP

Paul Hayes

7/05/2018 9:37:07 AM

The RACGP has urged the Federal Government to be firm in its commitment to the health of all Australians by supporting three vital aspects of general practice in this week’s 2018–19 budget.

The three key areas the RACGP would like to see covered in the upcoming Federal Budget are general practice placements for junior doctors, general practice research and antimicrobial stewardship.
The three key areas the RACGP would like to see covered in the upcoming Federal Budget are general practice placements for junior doctors, general practice research and antimicrobial stewardship.

‘General practice is the foundation of Australia’s healthcare system,’ RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel told newsGP.
‘GPs and their teams are Australia’s most accessed healthcare service, providing more than 150 million MBS-subsidised services to 21 million patients each year. Yet the majority of total Government expenditure on health continues to be dedicated to the hospital system and other tertiary health services.
‘Given the clear impact general practice has on the health of the nation, greater investment in preventative healthcare provided by specialist GPs is essential. Failure to invest adequately in general practice will result in continued increases in the overall cost of healthcare delivery.’
The RACGP has outlined three specific areas in which it believes the Federal Government should invest in order to assure the present and future of general practice and, with it, the nation’s health:
General practice placements for junior doctors

  • Australia is facing a medical training crisis due to the disparity between increasing numbers of medical graduates and available medical training placements. If the training system continues, Australia will have a pool of highly qualified – yet unemployed – medical graduates.
  • The Federal Government can help address these issues by establishing a national general practice placement program for prevocational doctors.
  • A nationally coordinated general practice placement program for prevocational doctors would address workforce issues, and encourage partnerships, communication and understanding between primary and secondary health systems.
General practice research
  • Most medical research continues to be conducted in the hospital sector, despite most patient health issues being managed by GPs and their teams.
  • Primary healthcare research funding represents only 2–4% of total National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding, with general practice making up an even smaller proportion.
  • The Federal Government can help address this situation by investing the infrastructure and systems that support general practice research. This includes general practice research networks and a national program for research training in general practice.
An antimicrobial stewardship program for general practice
  • The issue of antimicrobial resistance in Australia requires a collaborative, coordinated response from various sections of the community. General practice has a key part to play given GPs’ role in prescribing and healthcare coordination.
  • The Federal Government can help by implementing a three-phased approach
    • Phase 1 – Support the development of an antimicrobial audit at national and Primary Health Network levels, and educational resources for general practice.
    • Phase 2 – Expand the Practice Incentives Program (PIP) to support antimicrobial stewardship strategies in general practice.
    • Phase 3 – Strengthen evidence-based antimicrobial stewardship in general practice by funding antimicrobial resistance-specific research and supporting the integration of antibiotic prescribing support tools.
Speaking on Health of the Nation on Thursday 3 May, RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett said the Federal Government is at risk of missing a vital opportunity to provide support to general practice, particularly in the case of training placements and research.
‘Fifty per cent of doctors graduating from medical school will end up in general practice, but once they graduate they spend two years in the hospital system where they are isolated from a career in general practice,’ he said. ‘The Federal Government could provide some funding for doctors working in the state hospital system to spend some time in general practice.
‘And the current funding for general practice research is miniscule. Countries that have a strong general practice care system have better outcomes – people live longer, they spend less time in hospital, and they are less likely to go back into hospital when they are discharged.
‘It makes sense to spend research funding in general practice, where most patients are receiving their healthcare and we can get the biggest bang for our buck.’
The Federal Budget will be handed down on Tuesday 8 May.
The RACGP’s 2018–19 pre-budget submission is available online.

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Prashanta Mitra   8/05/2018 6:16:18 AM

I would like to see the demand for de freezing the Medicare rebate

Lindsay E   8/05/2018 7:19:34 PM

Yet again, we are putting the babies before the bathwater: why would any new graduate want to commit to General Practice, as we continue to struggle with reduced remuneration, being undervalued by the state-based hospitals system, & have less & less autonomy in what we do?
Not only do Medicare rebates require un-freezing, but they need to be increased to a reasonable & decent level. I dont see any politicians taking de facto paycuts: why should we?
Until that happens, we will never attract the brightest to General Practice...