22 November 2016

Access to appropriate after-hours care critical for all Australians

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has reiterated its position statement on After-hours home visiting services in primary healthcare, following the launch of a National Association of Medical Deputising Services (NAMDS) campaign, and the coinciding release of a commissioned report, that argue the RACGP has a vested interest by calling for restrictions on after hours item numbers.

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said general practice care provides value for money when providing after-hours healthcare, particularly when compared to hospital and other services and is a much better alternative for patients and the community than unnecessary hospital presentations.

“The RACGP remains supportive of after-hours medical services, because GP services reduce hospital presentations and admissions and provide overall savings to the health system.

“However, the RACGP stands by its June 2016 position statement on after-hours home visiting services, which was developed via consultation with members at the start of the year.

“First and foremost, the workforce providing these services must be appropriately qualified and experienced to provide safe general practice services, and for the services to provide value for money.

“Only vocationally registered GPs, non-VR GPs, doctors on a pathway to Fellowship or GP registrars under appropriate supervision from a qualified VR GP should be eligible to provide services that attract patient rebates for after-hours services.

"It should not be a second class service for patients," he said.

Dr Seidel also said access to after-hours services should be through the patients’ regular general practice to maintain continuity of care and ensure all health needs are managed.

“After-hours visiting services should establish and maintain formal connections with a patient’s usual GP or general practice, and provide a summary of care to the patient’s usual GP.

“Dedicated after-hours home visiting services should only take appointments during the after-hours period, as defined by Medicare.

“After-hours home visiting services should also adhere to AHPRA’s guidelines for advertising regulated health services.

“Strengthening the links between after-hours services and in-hours general practices would contribute to the effective use of health resources and lessen the potential for fragmentation of care – and would still support access to care after-hours,” he said.

For further information about the RACGP position statement on after-hours home visiting services visit the RACGP website.

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