Urgent care centre trial will fragment patient care

GPs are concerned that a new federally-funded trial of four new St John Ambulance urgent care centres in Western Australia will fragment care and lead to poorer health outcomes.

Chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Western Australia Council Dr Sean Stevens said the urgent care centres trial was not in the best interests of patients.

“Research shows that patients who maintain strong relationships with a usual GP and practice experience far better health outcomes,” Dr Stevens said.

“Any program that seeks to duplicate existing primary healthcare services will invariably lead to fragmentation of patient care, confusion and duplication of costs.

“The urgent care centres trial recently announced in the Federal Budget will not provide the same level of continuous, coordinated and comprehensive healthcare that GPs deliver to our patients.

“By virtue of their training, GPs are well equipped to manage patients seeking acute care in general practice but our patients also want good health and not just treatment. This is best delivered by a patient’s regular GP – someone they trust, who knows their history and circumstances.

It is unclear what problem these urgent care centres are trying to fix. It is also unclear why these centres require a Federal Government subsidy.”

Dr Stevens said greater benefits for urgent care in Western Australia could be achieved by supporting existing general practices to deliver these services, providing far broader coverage than the proposed trial.

“In Western Australia last year, GPs and their healthcare teams provided over 14 million patient services, at significantly less cost than services provided in hospitals or other forms of specialist care.

“Primary care provided outside of this model results in wasted health resources, largely through duplication or provision of unnecessary services.”

Dr Stevens said the RACGP and other key stakeholders were not involved in the consultation process for the trial of urgent care centres in Western Australia.

“Due to this lack of communication, the urgent care centre trial fails to take into account similar work already underway, where the state government is also setting up ‘urgent care clinics’ but in close consultation with key stakeholders including the RACGP.

“This state model will better utilise capacity within existing infrastructure in general practices to provide urgent primary healthcare services, which help reduce hospital burden.”

The RACGP will continue its advocacy work with all governments to deliver high quality urgent care in Western Australia.

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