The role of government in supporting the Vision: A path to partnership

Improving Australia's healthcare system together

Last revised: 22 Oct 2019

The Vision provides the solution to achieve long-term savings for the healthcare system and the Australian economy – through decreased secondary healthcare use, improved illness prevention and improved economic productivity.

Implementing and maintaining a sustainable healthcare system requires a shift in focus from reactive hospital-based care to proactive community-based disease prevention. The Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system (the Vision) demonstrates how this can be achieved by supporting the general practice team to deliver sustainable,* equitable, high-value healthcare.

Collaboration between health providers and health funders is key to achieving the Vision. General practitioners (GPs) can provide the solutions to improving the healthcare system based on evidence and our experience working at the coalface of patient care. However, without the support of governments at all levels, we will struggle to see these solutions realised.

We estimate recurrent annual savings of up to $4.5 billion can be achieved by simply supporting GPs and their teams to undertake their important roles in the community. This is made up of:

  • an annual saving of up to $1.5 billion if GPs and their teams were better supported to manage low-urgency emergency department presentations
  • an annual saving of up to $3 billion if GPs and their teams were better supported to manage conditions commonly resulting in preventable hospital admissions.

Further savings would be achieved through better support for coordinated and preventive care and improved economic productivity due to decreased illness.

The potential for these savings has been long known, yet little has been done to change our healthcare system. The RACGP sees that deficiencies in the current general practice funding model are largely to blame.

GPs are primarily funded by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) to undertake their roles through a fee-for-service model. This means that GPs are encouraged to see patients on an episodic basis (ie ‘deal with the problem in front of them’).

Other than the MBS items for chronic disease management, there is no funding to support GPs to prevent hospital admissions and manage patients before they present to an emergency department.

The RACGP seeks to engage with governments at all levels to provide appropriate funding that will meet the dual objectives of implementing the RACGP Vision and saving the healthcare system billions of dollars each year.

This resource provides a high-level overview of the supports that are required to address the challenges facing general practice and the healthcare system. It is intended to guide the conversation about how GPs and all levels of government can work in partnership to achieve a sustainable high-performing healthcare system that benefits all Australians. It outlines potential changes in two broad categories:

  1. Improvements to existing general practice services
  2. Introducing innovative models of care
Figure 1

Figure 1

The health system now
A vision for change

*For the purpose of this document, ‘sustainability’ refers to business sustainability and the ability for general practices to maintain viable practices and continue providing high-quality care to their patients.
  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Medical practitioners workforce 2015. Cat. no. WEB 140. Canberra: AIHW, 2016.
  2. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Standards for general practices. 5th edn. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2017.
  3. Wright M, Hall J, van Gool K, Hass M. How common is multiple general practice attendance in Australia? Aust J Gen Pract 2018;47(5):289–96.
  4. Duckett S, Griffiths K. Perils of place: Identifying hotspots of health inequalities. Melbourne: Grattan Institute, 2016. Perils-of-Place.pdf [Accessed 22 May 2019].
  5. Department of Health. GP workforce statistics – 2001–02 to 2016–17. Canberra: DoH, 2018. general+practice+statistics-1 [Accessed 3 May 2019].
  6. Duckett S, Breadon P, Ginnivan, L. Access all areas: New solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia. Melbourne: Grattan Institute, 2013 uploads/2014/04/196-Access-All-Areas.pdf [Accessed 3 May 2019].
  7. Scullard P, Abdelhamid A, Steel N, Qureshi N. Does the evidence referenced in NICE guidelines reflect a primary care population? Br J Gen Pract 2011;61(584):e112–17. [Accessed 3 May 2019].
  8. Steel N, Abdelhamid A, Stokes T, et al. A review of clinical practice guidelines found that they were often based on evidence of uncertain relevance to primary care patients. J Clin Epidemiol 2014;67(11):1251–57. [Accessed 3 May 2019].
This event attracts CPD points and can be self recorded

Did you know you can now log your CPD with a click of a button?

Create Quick log