The question is, how do we ensure that the needs of General Practice are high on the list and what are the key things we should be asking for?
There is a 10-year Primary Care Planning Committee formed at the request of Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and co-chaired by two very experienced GPs, one (Dr Steve Hambleton) a past AMA president. The Federal AMA Council of General Practice and I have been very closely involved with advising this committee on the real issues affecting the future of General Practice in Australia and the long-term solutions required. This is work in progress for us and a vital part of our advocacy and your membership value.
However, we cannot get long-term solutions in place for next year’s election. We need to advocate for things that are clearly defined, simple to implement and will make a real and immediate difference to GPs. There is a long list of issues making our lives difficult and General Practice a less attractive career option than it should be
But the key issues raised repeatedly with me are around financial viability and practice resourcing. This is especially so in the context of trying to deliver the quality care that we are trained for.
The number one problem I hear is how hard it is to deliver quality care requiring more time in a system that rewards a long level B consultation the same as a six-minute one.
So, after thought and consultation, I have developed a “wish list” to present nationally. All of which is in line with current AMA policy. We can only have a limited number of issues, so here are the key ones:
- Rebalance the MBS schedule, the initial step being an “extended level B” for consultations of between 15 and 20 This involves an additional payment and would require some addition to level C & D items as well.
- WIP payments – increased and This will allow all patients better access to nursing and allied health services, build the team within the general practice and make our working lives easier and more productive.
- After-hours back to 6pm – why are we not rebated in our rooms for an after-hours consult until after 8pm?
- Funding for voluntary patient registration – this will then enable a whole range of benefits to flow to the patient and their regular GP but must be encouraged and incentivised.
- Paid parental leave for GP trainees (externally-funded model not from training practices). The first step in obtaining full portability of benefits for our valuable GP trainees.
- Wound consumables scheme to supply or pay for the cost of expensive Minister Hunt is keen for action on wound care, so we should try to capitalise on this. Unlike the other items it will take longer to implement but we want a commitment.
- Nurse item numbers for chronic wound management – to enable better training and
You will no doubt have your own ideas and priorities. What do you think we need in the short term that will really make a difference and can be implemented at the stroke of a pen? It shouldn’t be something that can be shunted aside into committees or “pilot projects”.
Let me know.
Dr Simon Torvaldsen
Chair, AMA (WA) General Practice Group