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Health of the Nation survey open to collect ‘frontline evidence’


Morgan Liotta


26/04/2022 2:41:15 PM

Members of the college are invited to have their say in helping to inform advocacy efforts and shape the future of general practice.

GP talking to patient
Business sustainability of general practice is the focus of the 2022 Health of the Nation report and a key part of the college’s advocacy efforts.

THIS ARTICLE WAS UPDATED 3 MAY 2022

The annual Health of the Nation report is ‘a crucial advocacy tool’ that helps the college advocate on behalf of GPs.
 
That is according to RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price, speaking in a video encouraging members to have their say and take part in the Health of the Nation survey – now open to all GPs and GPs in training until 11 May.
 
The findings from the survey will feed into the college’s annual General Practice: Health of the Nation report, which combines the results with publicly available data on general practice to provide annual insight into the sector and track trends over time.  
 
‘The report gives us timely information on the issues GPs face and identifies the long-term trends and opportunities that we need to highlight to improve the state of general practice throughout Australia,’ Professor Price said.
 
‘Last year’s report received attention from all sides of politics. It attracted extensive media interest and most importantly, helped us consolidate our advocacy asks for our 2022 election campaign platform.’
 
General Practice: Health of the Nation is Australia’s only recurrent analysis of the collective data available regarding general practice, now that other key research pieces such as BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) and MABEL (Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life) have concluded.
 
The focus area for the 2022 Health of the Nation report is the business sustainability of general practice, in recognition of the challenges GPs continue to face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Dr Michael Wright, Chair of RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform (REC–FHSR), is responsible for advising on the direction of the survey and report. 
 
He told newsGP that the survey results will lend valuable insight into improving business sustainability – an important part of the college’s ongoing advocacy.
 
‘We know that general practice has endured a lot of challenges during the pandemic – from keeping our doors open with limited PPE, rapid uptake of telehealth, along with our enthusiastic leadership in the vaccine rollout,’ Dr Wright said.
 
‘Many practices have reported they are struggling financially and the RACGP is keen to know how your practice has been affected, as well as understand the sustainability of your practice.’
 
Dr Wright said the survey will help to provide insight into what has been happening within, and to, general practices, and provide the RACGP with ‘frontline evidence’.
 
‘Hearing the voice of GPs will help the RACGP in setting the right priorities when we talk to funders and policymakers,’ he said. 
 
The RACGP is concerned that funding for general practice is declining and does not match levels seen in comparable countries with high-quality health systems, with patients increasingly facing out-of-pocket costs and practices forced to change their billing practices.
 
Medical students’ preferred career choices are trending towards non-GP specialists over general practice – of which the college has also expressed concern and called for greater investment.
 
Additionally, the college recognises that GPs are working under increasing pressures due to unprecedented events such as the pandemic and natural disasters with little additional support, as well as an ageing population and increasing rates of chronic disease.
 
‘Many GPs have said they and their practices are struggling with increasing workload but stagnant finances,’ Dr Wright said.   
 
‘It feels like general practice has been a victim of its own success during the pandemic, and that politicians aren’t focusing on supporting the foundation of our successful pandemic response which is general practice. 
 
‘The data we get from this survey will help us understand what is happening in general practice and how we can improve the situation.’  
 
Previous Health of the Nation reports revealed trends related to business sustainability, including: 
 

  • disparity in incomes between GPs and other medical specialists
  • the shift away from solo practice to group practice
  • disparities between hospital and general practice funding
  • increasing out-of-pocket costs. 
 
This year’s report will expand on these trends by further examining the challenges faced by GPs and practice owners, the motivation behind bulk billing, and the impacts of Medicare complexity. 
 
The college will also look at trends in government funding for general practice services, drawing on previous reports and the 2022 survey results, to better understand factors contributing to the challenges facing GPs and to inform evidence to present to health policy decision makers.
 
Professor Price highlights the importance of GPs’ participation.
 
‘Together we can develop an evidence-based tool to get our political leaders to focus on what really matters to GPs every day,’ she said.
 
‘Your input will support our fight to ensure the sustainability of general practice for our patients. The college wants to ensure GPs are well supported to deliver quality care now, and into the future.’
 
Dr Wright echoes the call for GPs to share their insights.
 
‘Please fill in the survey – the greater response we have, the greater impact we can have in improving the system for every general practice,’ he said.
 
Upon completion of the 2022 Health of the Nation survey, participants are eligible to:
 
  • complete the related Health of the Nation – Business sustainability CPD Accredited Activity, which supports members to critically evaluate their billing policies, and earn 40 CPD points
  • enter a competition to receive free registration to the GP22 conference.
 
The survey was originally open to Fellows of the RACGP only, but has since become available online to all GPs and GPs in training, until 11 May.
 
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