19 September 2019

Australian GPs continuing to care for older Australians

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has launched General Practice: Health of the Nation, its annual health check-up on general practice.

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon presented the report to some of Australia’s key decision-makers, including Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen and Greens leader Richard Di Natale, at Parliament House this morning.

The report reaffirmed that GPs are a vital part of an integrated aged care workforce, serving as the primary providers of medical care to older people living in the community and residential aged care facilities.

“GPs provided over 5.5 million Medicare services in residential aged care facilities in 2018–19 alone,” Dr Nespolon said.

“Some 14% of GPs reported that they had worked in these facilities. That is a significant figure that must not be ignored when considering the health outcomes of older Australians.”

Dr Mortin Rawlin, who is currently chairing the RACGP’s review of medical care of older people in residential aged care faciltiies, said that an ageing population means GPs require more support to care for older people.

“Providing care to older people, including in residential aged care facilities, isn’t easy. There are time pressures, limited infrastructure and, at the end of the day, a lot of this work goes unremunerated,’ he said.

“With an ageing population, GPs need increased support so they can continue to provide high-quality services to patients in these facilities.”

Other key highlights of the 2019 General Practice: Health of the Nation report reveal that:

  • patients talk to their GP about mental health more than any other issue
  • GPs are avoiding or delaying seeking their own healthcare for a range of issues, in part due to concerns about being reported to regulatory bodies
  • out-of-pocket costs are increasing at double the consumer price index, with the average patient cost now higher than the rebate for a standard GP consultation
  • 14% of those delaying a GP visit do so because of cost concerns
  • there is a decline in the proportion of services bulk billed outside of major cities
  • more and more medical graduates are choosing other medical specialities over general practice, in part because a large amount of general practice work is unfunded
  • the costs of providing care are increasing year on year and not being matched through appropriate health funding
  • Medicare rebates remain the top health policy issue for GPs.

You can read the report here.

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