The AMA has participated in the first meeting of the Government’s Strengthening Medicare Taskforce on 29 July 2022.
As Health Minister Butler noted at the AMA National Conference, “The most terrifying statistic in health….is that less than 15% of medical graduates are choosing general practice as their preferred career”. It used to be around 50%.
The AMA is pushing for urgent reform of Medicare and significant additional funding for General Practice to reverse this trend.
The Government’s 10 Year Plan for Primary Care, which has broad support amongst key stakeholders who contributed to its development, noted that general practice needs to move from a model built around a consultation item structure that is failing to keep up with the growing complexity of care and the need for GPs to spend more time with their patients.
Although there are still areas of the plan that need refinement, we cannot afford to waste this work and must now start formalising an implementation plan with clear start dates.
The AMA has told the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce that its key priorities for immediate reform include:
Priority 1: Implementing Voluntary Patient Enrolment (VPE)
VPE is designed to formalise and strengthen the relationship between a patient and their GP to improve continuity of care and patient experience through the provision of non-face-to face services. It will give general practices the ability to define their patient population, better understand and measure care outcomes, and apply for additional government funding to address patient needs and gaps in care.
Priority 2: Uncapping and indexing the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP)
The WIP supports access to multidisciplinary care as part of a GP-led and coordinated team. Removing the current cap on payments under the WIP and introducing annual indexation will help embed the medical home model of care in Australia and ensure that general practice continues to evolve into a hub where patients can access care from a range of healthcare providers working in a collaborative model with GPs.
Priority 3: Implement immediate, simple reforms to afterhours care and wound care
The definition of afterhours care should be changed to any period outside 8:00am until 6:00pm on weekdays to encourage more practices to remain open during these times. The current definition discourages practices from opening extended hours, forcing patients to deputising services. With respect to wound care, the AMA will argue for a Commonwealth-funded wound consumables scheme to subsidise the costs of consumables provided in general practice for patients with chronic wounds or wounds that are at risk of becoming chronic.