The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called for greater investment in general practice care so that no patient is left behind.
It comes following the release of the 2021 Census data, which revealed that over eight million Australians have a long-term health condition. Over two million people reported having at least one of the following conditions – mental health (2,231,543), arthritis (2,150,396) or asthma (2,068,020).
RACGP Vice President and Brisbane GP Dr Bruce Willett said that the Census data backed up what the college has been saying for many years.
“These are stark figures that should concern governments across Australia. The RACGP has been warning for quite some time that we must have a sustainable health system capable of managing an ageing population, a mental health crisis, and a rising number of people with chronic illness and other serious health problems,” he said.
“That is why it is so important that governments boost investment in general practice care. GPs and general practice teams are needed by our communities more than ever before and the pandemic has only added to the extraordinary pressures practices are facing. That includes helping people who delayed or avoided consults and screenings in 2020 and 2021 as well as people with mental health concerns made worse by social restrictions and the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“So, general practice really needs a helping hand, and we are calling for timely reforms to boost general practice care and improve patient health outcomes. The Census data tells us loud and clear that the time to act is now.”
The RACGP Vice President said that there were several measures which could make a huge difference in patient care.
“By boosting investment in general practice care, government can relieve pressure on the entire health system and significantly improve long-term patient health outcomes,” he said.
“We are calling for a 10% increase to Medicare rebates for Level C consultations, which last at least 20 minutes, and Level D consultations, which last for at least 40 minutes, as well as introducing a new Medicare item for longer consultations lasting more than 60 minutes. This will allow GPs to spend more time with patients and really get to the bottom of what is going on, something that is particularly helpful for people with mental health concerns. Medicare rebates simply have not kept pace with the cost of providing high-quality care. With some eight million people reporting a long-term health condition that must change now, we have no time to lose.
“In addition, the college is advocating for new service incentive payments to provide regular and preventive care for older patients, people with mental health conditions and those with a disability. This will make a difference in communities across Australia, including in rural and remote communities where GPs are the only available health service.
“The solutions to improving our health system and helping the many millions of people who report a long-term health condition are right in front of us, we just need the conviction to follow through and deliver on the reforms that will make such a difference for patient care across Australia.
“We have a new Government and it’s time to properly recognise general practice and give us the support we need. Otherwise, the next Census and the one after that will reveal even more troubling health data.”
The RACGP’s Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system outlines a model of care that aims to address many of the nation’s long standing healthcare challenges. The economic benefits of implementing the Vision show that it is a sound return on investment.