21 August 2014
Australia’s peak body of general practice representative groups, United General Practice Australia (UGPA welcomes the Federal Government’s review of the administration of after-hours primary care services, which was formally announced this week.
Through the review, UGPA will be urging the Federal Government to again administer funding for after-hours services through its Practice Incentives Program, as was the case until July 2013.
Currently, incentive payments for after-hours medical services are administered by Medicare Locals across Australia. Medicare Locals were given this responsibility upon their establishment by the former federal Labour Government.
Increased red tape, unnecessarily complicated contracts and funding uncertainty have been hallmarks of the current arrangements, and this continues to significantly impact both the viability of local after-hours services and the willingness of many general practices to continue to provide these services.
While Medicare Locals will be replaced by Primary Health Networks (PHNs) from 1 July 2015, UGPA argues strongly that PHNs should not be given responsibility for administering after-hours funding.
There continues to be a real danger that, should the current (or similar) arrangement continue under PHNs, more general practices will decide there is too much red-tape and funding uncertainty for them to continue to provide an after-hours service.
The previous system - under which after-hours services were administered nationally as part of the Practice Incentives Program - worked efficiently and was very effective in supporting general practices to provide after-hours services.
It is essential that arrangements for the funding after-hours services are as financially sustainable and simple as possible to ensure general practices are encouraged to continue to provide these essential services to their communities.
UGPA supports a return to a national system of after-hours funding which will reduce the administrative burden on practices and provide appropriate recognition and support for the general practices that deliver these important services.