RACGP urges Federal Government to invest in primary care

Matt Woodley

25/08/2020 3:00:37 PM

Support is especially vital given the likely long-term impact of COVID-19, the college said in its updated pre-budget submission.

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The RACGP has called for more Government support for telehealth, extended consultations, and voluntary patient enrolment.

In particular, the RACGP has called on the Federal Government to extend Medicare subsidies for telehealth consultations beyond 30 September, implement voluntary patient enrolment, and provide additional Medicare subsidies for mental health consultations.
It has also requested additional help for GPs caring for patients with chronic and complex conditions, via increased support for longer consultations.
RACGP spokesperson Dr Bruce Willett believes primary care will be ‘absolutely essential’ in managing the long-term health of communities into the future, and said now is the right time to give general practice more support.
‘The long-term health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are unknown but likely to be severe,’ he said. ‘That includes the effects of patients delaying or avoiding care, an increase in mental health concerns and the impacts of the virus itself on long-term physical and mental wellbeing.
‘Each year, GPs provide care to nearly 90% of Australians, yet general practice represents less than 13% of Federal Government health expenditure.
‘This must change now because GPs provide the long-term care needed to improve the health trajectory of patients, keeping them well and out of hospital.
‘The pandemic has placed an enormous strain on our healthcare system and led to many people suffering from poorer health outcomes – if we want to get on top of these problems we need to boost investment in primary care.’
Dr Willett said that the right investments will make an enormous difference for many patients.
‘Many aspects of healthcare policy are complicated, but this is strikingly simple – a boost to primary care funding would allow more people to access quality care from their GP and lead to better health outcomes for patients as well as reduced healthcare expenditure,’ he said.
‘We have clearly laid out where Government should provide greater support for general practice and improve patient health.’
Dr Willett said expanding telehealth consultations beyond 30 September will also be ‘crucial’ for patients, especially those who have put off seeing their GP due to coronavirus concerns.
‘Ensuring patients have continuity of care with a usual GP is essential. It results in more patients addressing their health concerns at first instance before they become more severe and require secondary care,’ he said.
‘A voluntary patient enrolment system, where clinics receive additional payments for “enrolling” a patient with a regular GP, would enhance comprehensive care for more patients and reduce hospitalisations for those who frequently visit GPs.
The delay in rolling out this funding system is unfortunate because the patients who will benefit the most from voluntary patient enrolment are those most at risk of the COVID-19 virus. That includes older Australians and people with chronic disease.
‘The pandemic has also put immense strain on many people and led to more patients experiencing mental health concerns. To help these people we need longer consultations so that GPs can take the time to talk through what our patients are experiencing and how we can help them.
‘The health impacts of the pandemic on the overall health of the population will be long-lasting and GPs on the frontline need all the help they can get. Our plan will provide them with the resources they need to do just that.’
The RACGP’s updated 2020–21 pre-budget submission is available on the college website.
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Dr Michael Lucas Bailey   26/08/2020 10:33:03 AM

Why the ongoing push for a an enrolment funding model. This only shifts the economic management risk from government to general practice. If it benefits general practice is mainly benefits corporates and practice owners. This was seen in the failed Health Care Homes trial. The payments were insufficient and mostly didn’t go to the GPs. If we want more GPs to do the work the individual renumeration needs to be improving not going backwards compared to every other occupation.

Cut out the rubbish, proliferation of complex item numbers like the Eating Disorder mess and now the ECG mess. Make rebates appropriate by increasing them and continue telehealth.