RACGP President champions advocacy efforts to open GP19

Doug Hendrie

24/10/2019 11:53:00 AM

Dr Harry Nespolon this morning welcomed more than 1700 delegates to the annual conference in Adelaide.

Dr Harry Nespolon
Dr Harry Nespolon said the RACGP is ‘acting to draw more young people to our rewarding profession’.

In his welcome address, Dr Nespolon said it had been a busy 12 months for the RACGP.
He highlighted the important advocacy work the college has undertaken in areas like aged care, workforce trends, and the sustainability of general practice.
‘In February, I appeared before the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality and informed them that a lot of work being done by GPs goes unremunerated, and that there was a lack of physical infrastructure to allow GPs to provide care to the most vulnerable Australians,’ he said.
‘The RACGP is on the front foot on this.’
Dr Nespolon said the RACGP is alert to concerning trends in the healthcare workforce, with the recent 2019 General Practice: Health of the Nation report revealing the spike in non-GP specialist applications relative to submission for general practice.
‘We can’t stick our heads in the sand on this, but we are acting to draw more young people to our rewarding profession,’ he said.
‘We’ve run the “Become a GP” campaign, targeting med students, showing them why it’s such an interesting, rewarding line of work where you can make a difference to your community and have an ongoing relationship with patients with that continuity of care.
‘That’s the bedrock of being a GP and it’s especially rewarding.
‘For all medical graduates, you will not regret becoming a GP specialist.’
Dr Nespolon used his speech to launch the latest version of the RACGP’s Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system, outlining the college’s vision of a sustainable healthcare system.
‘Our messaging has been strong and consistent and it is having a definite impact. At the Health of the Nation report [launch], we had the Health Minister, the Opposition health spokesman, and the leader of the Greens,’ Dr Nespolon said.
‘All of them had kind words about the centrality of general practice – but it’s essential we get them to deliver.’
Dr Nespolon cited other RACGP advocacy efforts, such as calling for doctors to be exempt from mandatory reporting laws, allowing GPs to feel the same freedom as other Australians in confiding in their own doctors without risking their career.
He also said the RACGP’s backing of the decision to ban over-the-counter sale of codeine was key, leading to a significant fall in overdoses due to the drug.
‘We have been inventive in grasping the attention of policy-makers. We have been firm in advancing our positions,’ he said.
‘We cautioned that some of the after-hours models not connected to a patient’s usual GP had significant system costs, and that has led to change.
‘We warned the pharmacy sector was seeking profits over patient safety by giving vaccinations to children as young as 10 in a retail environment and well beyond their scope of practice.
‘We have been fighting for government funding so the significant burden isn’t passed on to patients. Just yesterday, it was raised in Senate Estimates – the fact that this year, the average out-of-pocket expense is higher than the level B rebate for the first time.
‘We are $2.34 billion behind since the Medicare rebate freeze began, due to a lack of proper indexation.’
Dr Nespolon said that the RACGP will ‘continue this fight’.
‘We must – it drives us every day. As we look forward, our advocacy on key issues will only grow stronger,’ he said.

More than 1700 delegates were welcomed at GP19 in Adelaide.

Dr Nespolon lauded the late Professor Peter Mudge, a long-time RACGP stalwart and a major influence on Australian general practice.
‘When Dr Claire Jackson was asked about her memories of Peter, her answer was telling,’ he said. ‘Peter was there for her when she was a young mother. He tore up the rulebook to create a supportive workplace that many now take for granted.
‘We should always endeavour to do better, to break the mould, to include voices that haven’t been heard, to innovate and to learn from the experience of other jurisdictions. There are many examples of such progress at GP19.’

Dr Nespolon said the launch of the RACGP’s Alcohol and Other Drugs education program is one example of that progress.
‘There are many who don’t fit the tired alcohol and drug stereotype – young professionals, high-achieving teens, people recovering from surgery, parents, brothers, sisters, friends,’ he said. ‘We must ensure GPs feel equipped to start a conversation around this. It’s a health problem, pure and simple.’

Dr Nespolon predicted that more jurisdictions will follow the ACT and conduct pill-testing trials as part of a harm-minimisation approach the RACGP broadly supports.
He acknowledged that on pill testing – and other issues – there are a range of views within the membership.
‘It’s impossible for 40,000 members to agree with everything the RACGP does. This is our strength and our weakness,’ he said.
‘Not every member fully appreciated our election campaign. That’s natural. But it did have very strong patient recognition, and it’s part of a long continuing difficult journey in advocating for our profession.
‘If we don’t engage, I can guarantee another rebate freeze – or worse.’
Dr Nespolon finished by praising the profession.
‘Being a GP is one of the – if not the most – rewarding professions,’ he said.
‘Some GPs see patients as a baby, guide them through young adulthood and then having their own children. I can’t think of another profession where you can so clearly see the impact your work is having in your own community.
‘People know, respect and trust you.’

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