17 April 2024

Everyone needs a GP and general practice must be supported to thrive: RACGP

The Royal Australia College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has again stressed the Government’s Scope of Practice review must focus on supporting the vital role of GPs at the heart of primary care teams rather than copying disastrous UK health system failures. 

In an initial response to Issues Paper 2, RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said: “Everyone needs a GP, and any reform must support the role of GPs at the heart of primary care – helping people live healthier and avoid hospital.  

“Patients get the best outcomes when GPs and other health professionals work together for our patients. We mustn’t trade this high-quality and safe care for convenience – McMedicine will make us sicker in the long run and cost the government and taxpayers much more. 

“Australia has a world class health system. This review needs to focus on improving it and not adopting failed measures from other countries.” 

While noting the review’s recommendations for blended funding models Dr Higgins said:  

“Funding must be flexible, and fee-for-service retained, so GPs can best respond to our patient's needs.  

“The RACGP is calling on the Government to make a firm, public commitment to no capitation. We will never support a funding model that includes UK-style capitation, because we know it doesn’t work. The Government needs to publicly assure GPs that capitation is off the table. 

“After decades of underfunding, including the devasting Medicare freeze, it’s critical that overall funding for general practice care is not watered down. We need to be extremely cautious of unintended consequences of reforms that seek to 'cash out' on current incentives. Current incentives, while not flawless, are critical to the viability of general practice in delivering high-quality care. More flexible funding is needed to ensure general practice can thrive in every community across the country, and no patient misses out on the care they need.”    

The RACGP President also repeated calls for the review to support GPs to do more to improve access for patients and reduce costs. 

“The overwhelming majority of RACGP members believe they can increase their scope to benefit patients.  

“We’re calling for red tape to be cut so GPs can prescribe and dispense more medicines and provide more services, such as for acne treatment, iron infusions, and dementia. This will reduce the need for referrals to other specialists and make it faster and less costly for patients and taxpayers.  

“The solution to improve access to patients is also very simple, and I am repeatedly stressing this to the government. We need to support more GPs to train and work in communities across the country.  

“The College is responsible for training 90% of Australia’s GPs so we know what works, and we are calling for funding for incentives and subsidised training for GP registrars in the next Budget to do just this – boost our GPs, so we have enough in every community.”  

The Scope of Practice review consultation is ongoing, and the RACGP will continue to consult widely with members to inform our recommendations to the review.  

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