Put patients first: RACGP

Matt Woodley

11/04/2019 3:51:48 PM

Dr Harry Nespolon launched the RACGP’s election campaign, demanding politicians take patient health seriously and ensure access to quality care.

Harry Nespolon and Deb Sambo
President Dr Harry Nespolon (right) answers questions alongside Queensland GP Dr Deb Sambo at the launch of the RACGP election campaign.

Dr Nespolon made the comments ahead of the launch of the RACGP’s 2019 election campaign and statement, calling for action to be taken in four key areas:

  • Modernising medicine
  • Reducing out-of-pocket costs
  • Supporting mental health services
  • Supporting complex care for those who need it most
The RACGP’s election campaign, which was officially launched on Thursday morning and will feature advertising across TV, radio and digital channels, asks all sides of politics to invest more in general practice.
The college has labelled the current model of community care ‘unsustainable’ and has called for an investment in ‘high-quality and accessible general practice services’ to safeguard GPs’ ability to provide affordable healthcare.
‘We want to modernise general practice,’ Dr Nespolon told newsGP.
‘That means we want to use a whole range of different ways of communicating and helping patients, rather than solely face-to-face consultations. It also requires a radical rethink about Medicare and how patient rebates are generated.
‘General practice is Australia’s most accessed form of healthcare, with nearly 90% of all Australians visiting their GP each year – yet general practice only receives 7.4% of all government health expenditure.’
Part of the RACGP’s push to modernise medicine includes introducing patient rebates for non-face-to-face care, such as video and telephone consultations. Dr Nespolon said improving patient care is the main driver behind modernisation.
‘We would like patients to see their GPs when they need to – not when they can afford to – and in the way that they would like to be seen,’ he said.
‘We have been calling for substantial investment into general practice for several years, across governments and all sides of politics, with little to show for it. We need to see commitment from our politicians, otherwise general practice patients will suffer.’

The RACGP’s election campaign includes a range of materials for members to use in lobbying their local candidates and politicians.  

According to Dr Nespolon, the proposed reforms are not just about making it easier for patients to access primary healthcare, but also more affordable – particularly for patients with complex care and mental health needs.
‘Unfortunately, patients with mental health problems miss out under the current Medicare rebate scheme and we would be looking to equalise that,’ he said.
‘When Medicare was created it was to make sure that those who could not afford healthcare did not miss out. But because of a lack of investment by all sides of politics over the past decade, patients with complex conditions are already having to decide if they can afford to see their doctor.
‘That is why, as a profession we are standing up and saying that enough is enough.’
The RACGP has encouraged GPs to ‘get involved’ this election, and Dr Nespolon said he is pleased with the efforts he has already seen. 
‘It’s been quite heartening to hear the response from GPs,’ he said. ‘GPs realise that if they don’t participate in the political process they will be left behind, and we have been left behind.
‘I got into medicine because I wanted to help my community, not to keep an eye on the clock or struggle to maintain financial viability.
‘Patients need to know that because of decisions made by successive governments, more and more Australians cannot afford to see their doctor.’
Authorised by Z. Burgess for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Melbourne.

In addition to advertising across a number of channels, the RACGP’s election campaign has also produced a range of materials for members to use in lobbying their local candidates and politicians. The campaign is designed, in part, to give patients a better understanding about why the cost to visit a GP keeps increasing, and to put pressure on their candidates to invest in general practice.
‘Our campaign calls for voters to put pressure on their candidates and ask them to support them and their loved ones get the care they deserve, not just the care they can afford. Make your health the focus of this election,’ Dr Nespolon said.

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Dr Deborah Uwa Sambo   12/04/2019 8:33:52 PM

Great message, and a great campaign.
Asking our patients to join us in campaigning for better funding of primary care which benefits them tremendously; giving them easier and affordable access to GPs while keeping them out of Hospitals.
The patients are being made aware about the need for them to stand up and partner with their GPs for their own health care.
This is so well captured by this campaign
Well done to the leadership of the RACGP.

Darrell cox   13/04/2019 7:05:03 PM

We have seen your advertisement several times now on TV and find it very misleading. It does not explain exactly what you are trying to say, accept that it costs everyone money to go to a doctor. You fail to explain that anyone can go to a doctor that bulk bills. We have never paid a gap in fees to a doctor. Please do not onsell my information to any 3rd party.

Sarah P.   29/04/2019 12:35:49 PM

I agree with Darrell Cox that the RACGP TV ad is misleading. It seeks to create the impression that Australia's healthcare system is similar to America's. Shame on you.

Bulk-billing rates are at their highest level. A GP visit is not unaffordable, bulk-billing practices ensure access to anyone. If someone needs urgent care, they can go to a public hospital emergency dept at no cost.

And for what it's worth, I think there should be an out-of-pocket cost charged to every patient, even if only $5 as back (briefly) in the Hawke/Keating era.

Peter Hamilton-Gibbs   1/05/2019 3:21:59 AM

An appalling advertisement and I am astonished it is approved by college. Having practised in Rural Medicine for more than 40 years including obstetrics, procedural and acute medicine I find the ad. very offensive. Certainly there are areas in medicine especially specialist visits (many unnecessary) that are obscenely expensive... Increasingly many GPS are becoming referrologists, ordering masses of frivolous pathology and imaging investigations as well as propping up income with trivial recalls and blatant overservicing. Our expensive “specialist” fraternity is expanding at an alarming rate. As rightly pointed out most GP consultations are Bulk Billed and comparing with America is grossly misleading. Sadly your ad. depicts an insincere snivelling group of so called unfortunates. Yes, there are serious problems in Health Care but the RACGP is widely missing the mark. My resignation from a previously great college is on its way.

Dr A Jones   1/05/2019 10:49:32 AM

Australia has universal health care, the USA does not. So why is your ad comparing our universal health scheme to a nation without one?

The public is not stupid and this ad is a poor reflection on the judgment of the College.

Wendy Moody MBBS PhD   14/05/2019 7:17:13 PM

I think your ad is mischievous. Why would you compare the Australian health system to that in the USA? We have bulk billing for anyone! We have free hospitals for anyone. Also, I had to listen hard to hear “a “ federal government, as opposed to “the” federal government. So people could be excused for thinking you are supporting the present opposition.