General practice has fared reasonably well in the 2015 Budget, and the RACGP says it supports programs that improve patient care and access, including changes to after-hours care.
RACGP President Dr Frank R Jones says Health Minister Sussan Ley has taken steps to genuinely consult with GPs on issues affecting them and their patients, with a $2.3 billion increase to the health budget over four years.
“However at the same time, the Budget identifies $1.7 billion in health budget efficiencies over four years and we are concerned about some of the programs that may be included as part of this. The RACGP will be examining this in further detail over the coming days,” Dr Jones says.
He says the RACGP supports the Government’s move to return the delivery of after-hours care to GPs via the Practice Incentives Program After Hours Payment from July 1 2015.
“Having GPs coordinate after-hours care is a win for patients who will be able to access the care they need from their regular general practice when they need it – even if it isn’t during normal operating hours,” Dr Jones says.
The RACGP also supports $34.3 million over two years being allocated to the Government’s Medicare Benefits Schedule Review taskforce, the Primary Healthcare Advisory Group and the development of clearer Medicare compliance rules.
The RACGP says it has long called for a properly integrated e-health system and is keen to learn details of the Government’s $485 million allocation for myHealth Record initiative.
“An e-health system is of particular benefit to GPs who are usually the first port of call for people when they are sick. A national system can provide more timely access to clinical information which can lead to better patient care.
“It will be critical to review the fine detail because many medico-legal issues are as yet unresolved and it is not clear what training and support will be provided for GPs,” Dr Jones says.
Dr Jones saysthe RACGP is extremely disappointed that the freeze on Medicare rebates has been included in the Budget despite strong opposition from grassroots GPs.
“The RACGP has long called for the freeze to be immediately lifted because it will force patients to pay more to see their GP and have serious implications on the provision of quality clinical services.”