13 April 2022

RACGP urges investment in general practice care

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on whoever wins government in the upcoming federal election to give general practice care a much-needed shot in the arm.

Earlier this year, the RACGP launched its Federal Election Statement that calls for:

  • new service incentive payments to improve regular, continuous, and preventive care for older people

  • increasing Medicare rebates for patients who need longer appointments with their GP

  • retaining telehealth rebates for patients to have longer telehealth consultations with their GP via telephone

  • a new service incentive payment for patients with mental health issues that supports the grouping of a services including a GP mental health treatment plan and a physical health assessment

  • a new service incentive payment for people living with disability that provides for a health assessment and completion of National Disability Insurance Scheme reports and documentation

  • introducing additional support for GPs to see their patient within seven days of an unplanned hospital admission or emergency department presentation

  • greater investment in rural healthcare including increasing Workforce Incentive Programs with additional payments for GPs who use advanced skills in rural areas and providing access to the relevant specialty Medicare Benefits Schedule items when a GP holds advanced skills in areas such as mental health or paediatrics

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that it was time for general practice to feature front and centre in a federal election campaign.

“Too often GPs and general practice teams are taken for granted and that must change,” she said.

“GPs, practice managers, nurses, receptionists and administrative workers are needed now by their communities more than ever before. We are flat out caring for COVID-19 positive patients, delivering COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as well as influenza vaccines, caring for people who have delayed or avoided consultations and screenings during the pandemic, as well as helping patients with mental health concerns exacerbated by lockdowns and other pandemic-related stresses.

“Before the pandemic we were already facing a looming mental health crisis, rising rates of chronic disease and an ageing population. We urgently need to fix the cracks in our health system and ensure everyone can access the care they need.

“Earlier this year we released our Election Statement, which outlined a series of timely reforms that would not only make the nation’s health system more efficient but also significantly improve long-term patient health outcomes. These reforms would save the health system at least $1 billion within a year and benefit patients in communities right across Australia. Everyone deserves access to high-quality general practice care, no matter their postcode.

“As the Opposition Leader outlined in his Budget in Reply speech, it’s vital that we do more to care for older Australians. Something that would make a real difference is a new service incentive payment, or SIP, that helps support the provision of a grouping of preventative care services including a health assessment for older Australians and a frailty assessment.

“Recently, a Senate Committee’s interim report into the provision of general practitioner and related primary health services to outer metropolitan, rural, and regional Australians recommended the federal Government investigates substantially increasing Medicare rebates for all levels of GP consultations, as well as other general practice funding options. Everyone agrees that investment in GP services is a high priority. We’ve done the reviews; we’ve done the consultations, and now it’s time to act.

“The college has been calling for increased investment in GP services for patients with mental health issues, people in aged care and disability, those in rural and remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and more. As such, to start with, we’re calling for a 10% increase to Medicare rebates for Level C consultations, which last at least 20 minutes, and Level D GP consultations, which last at least 40 minutes.

“In addition, we want the introduction of a new Medicare item for longer consultations lasting more than an hour – because good care requires time, time to listen, time to assess, and time to get to the bottom of what is going on. This will be particularly beneficial for those patients with complex needs, including people with mental health concerns. GPs are the first port of call for many patients with mental health issues and Medicare rebates must reflect that.

“The RACGP is also strongly committed to making Medicare rebates for longer telephone telehealth consultations a permanent fixture of the nation’s healthcare system. This is especially important for those patients who do not have the skills or access to the technology required for video technology consultations. If there aren’t rebates for longer telephone consultations, the patient groups that will miss out the most include those with increased health needs, such as people in rural and remote communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, and older people.

“So, in the first days of the campaign hustings I urge all parties and candidates of all persuasions to put general practice first, because our patients deserve nothing less.”

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via: