15 December 2015

General practice research funding

General practice is a scientific discipline: our practice base is dependent upon evidence drawn from a multidisciplinary approach.

Research underpins the very essence of how we are able to produce timely evidence to inform clinicians’ quality care, and improve our patients’ health and outcomes.

It is disconcerting, and of extreme concern to have witnessed the rapid decline in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding relating to general practice research over the past decade to a level whereby only 2–3% of NHMRC research is being conducted in areas related to general practice and primary care.

Funding is perilously low for both research grants and fellowships.

To outline the RACGP’s concerns, I have written to the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley.

Medical research has, and is largely being conducted within the tertiary hospital sector. However, as the vast majority of illnesses are now managed in general practice, logic would indicate a cultural shift, and a pragmatic re-alignment in thinking and planning to meet the needs of a changing health demography.

In general primary healthcare, the application of evidence generated in a secondary or tertiary care environment may be at times inappropriate and have unseen and unintended consequences.

It will not provide evidence on which to base practice for many important conditions essentially managed in primary rather than secondary care. For some conditions it may provide out-of-context evidence with resultant harms, including inappropriate and excessive (and costly) investigation and treatment. 

It is incongruous that GPs see 85% of the Australian population annually but only receive 2–3% of health related research funding.

This incongruity is also out of step with general practice funding in comparable OECD countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands where capacity and funding per capita for general practice research is much higher.

One example is the substantial and sustained funding of multi-university research centres in both countries: the UK School for Primary Care Research and the Netherlands School of Primary Care Research.

At this critical time for review of general practice funding models and the MBS review, it would seem eminently judicious and sensible that the focus of medical research within Australia should also be re-examined.

Without a strongly resourced and evidence-based general practice system, cost inefficiencies and inequalities will persist.

Dr Frank R Jones
RACGP President

The good GP never stops learning

The second phase of The Good GP campaign launched last week in response to ongoing member feedback demanding the RACGP plays a stronger role in advocating for general practice.

Better understanding of the extensive training and professional development GPs undertake, and improved overall patient sentiment towards GPs as expert generalists, will strengthen the voice of the RACGP when advocating on behalf of the profession.

The community awareness campaign reminds patients just how important their GP is as a specialist in life. It brings into focus some of the critical health conditions and social issues facing Australians, including family violence, drug addiction, mental health issues and chronic disease.

The national media campaign will appear across TV, cinema, digital and social media. It also includes updated campaign materials that RACGP members, their practice managers and practice IT staff are encouraged to download and display in their practices.

The Good GP campaign is available to view now on the RACGP website.

Emergency preparation for Christmas

The festive season serves as a timely reminder to ensure the safety of our patients, practices, staff and selves.

Australian is about to enter the hottest months of the year; there are heightened risks of bushfires and extreme weather events. To ensure your practice is best positioned to respond to these types of events, it is imperative that your practice has a current emergency response plan in place. General practices in fire-prone areas will play a significant role in the community’s overall response but, to be effective, GPs and practice staff need to be prepared.

In response to a number of natural disasters, the RACGP has developed and endorsed a range of resources to support general practices to prepare for, respond to and recover from the impacts of emergencies.

The RACGP’s Managing emergencies and pandemics in general practice: A guide for preparation, response and recovery provides an overview of the planning process and outlines a range of activities that can be undertaken to help protect the practice’s infrastructure and contents during the summer season.

For further information regarding the RACGP endorsed Emergency Response Planning Tool (ERPT), call 1800 008 384 or email help@healthpointanz.org.au.

RACGP clinical pearl – testing young people for STIsv

Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in Australia are highest amongst people aged 15-24 years. Most young people attend general practice at least once a year and are often unaware of their risk of infection and that STIs can be asymptomatic.

Therefore, the Australian STI Management Guidelines for Use in Primary Care recommend opportunistically offering chlamydia screening to all young people at least annually. In addition, testing for hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV is recommended and vaccination should be considered for all young people not immune to hepatitis B. These guidelines were approved by the RACGP as an Accepted Clinical Resource in 2014.

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP should contact:

John Ronan

Senior Media Advisor