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12 November 2020

RACGP urges government to improve access to quality GP care for older people accessing aged care

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging the Federal Government to improve access to high quality primary care for people accessing aged care services.

The call came in the RACGP’s response to the Aged Care Royal Commission Council Assisting draft recommendations.

While largely supportive of the draft recommendations, the RACGP again warned strongly against recommendation 62: a new primary care model to improve access to care, fearing it may have the opposite effect. The RACGP previously rejected the proposal in its submission to the Royal Commission and called for improved engagement with GPs.

RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda said the current model of care was perfectly capable of delivering improved care with changes to the funding model.

“The current model of care is perfectly capable of supporting the needs of older people – any shortcomings are due to the wholly inadequate support for GPs.

“Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission acknowledged that current Medicare rebates and incentives have ‘not proven to be sufficient for the type and amount of care needed’.

“The solution to this problem is right in front of us – we don’t need a new model, the government simply needs to ensure that GP time is appropriately recognised and remunerated.

The RACGP Acting President said the recognition that the current model was lacking adequate support to ensure holistic, preventive and long-term care for patients in aged care was welcome and expected.

“We knew this was a problem, however, the solution proposed will not improve general practice care for older people.

“In fact, it may actually make it harder for GPs to provide care for these people, and decrease access to high-quality, comprehensive and necessary general practice services. We cannot let this happen and the RACGP as such cannot support this proposal.”

Associate Professor Shenouda said improvements to the current funding model were necessary to improve access to care.

“We know the current level of support is wholly inadequate and it’s the older people accessing aged care services who are suffering.

“An alternative funding model that supplements the fee-for-service model and facilitates care coordination is clearly needed.

“Any proposed model requires co-design or consultation with the GP sector at a minimum.”

In response to the draft recommendations, the RACGP noted that it is developing a new model of care, in consultation with the Australian Department of Health and other peak bodies: universal voluntary patient enrolment, building on the model previously planned for introduction in July this year which was delayed by the Government.

Associate Professor Shenouda said voluntary patient enrolment would improve access to care for older people.

“If appropriately supported, the model of universal voluntary patient enrolment that we are developing in consultation with the Department of Health would work to improve access to care for older people, and better integrate with the existing health care system.”

Another key call in the RACGP’s response to the draft recommendations referred to recommendation 64: Access to specialists and other health practitioners through Multidisciplinary Outreach Services.

Associate Professor Shenouda said it was critical that multidisciplinary teams are led or coordinated by a patient’s usual GP to ensure continuity of care.

“A patient’s usual GP knows their health history and current concerns, and provides continuing care. Clearly, GPs should be responsible for coordinating or leading these multidisciplinary teams to ensure that patients receive the right services for their needs, and they need to be enabled and supported to provide this care.”

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