This week’s 2023 Federal Budget has proposed welcome additional investment in Medicare, particularly in relation to primary health care in recognition of the ongoing challenges being experienced by patients in accessing GP care, the need for greater support for multidisciplinary care and public health initiatives. For your information a copy of the Department of Health and Aged Care’s Budget 2023-24 Overview can be found here.
However, as the AACP has clearly pointed out to Government, the lack of access to GPs in many parts of Australia has meant increasing numbers of patients are immediately referred by overstretched GPs to consultant physicians and paediatricians (CPPs). Reports that patients are seeking urgent appointments with CPPs because they cannot see a GP are now not uncommon.
The AACP has urged Government to recognise the impact of this situation on CPPs and to work with the AACP to consider how best to manage the increasing numbers of Australian patients who have complex care needs and who are not able to access GP services. While the AACP welcomes increased support generally for GPs and for allied health, the rapid changes in access to GPs have revealed significant deficiencies in the currently available MBS items for CPPs for ongoing chronic care management.
Early involvement of CPPs in the management of complex medical conditions will deliver enhanced care, but just as Government has addressed the need to maintain bulk billing for concessional patients, there is also a need to ensure patients of CPPs requiring very complex care also have access to appropriate rebates.
Similarly, recognition of the involvement of allied health providers, such as nurses and physiotherapists, in multidisciplinary teams is appropriate, but equally the involvement of CPPs and other specialists which contributes to greater efficiency in delivery of health care, reduced hospital admissions and overall reduced expenditure needs to be acknowledged explicitly.
What we are doing
The President, Dr Terry Stubberfield, and AACP Executive Officer will be meeting with senior Department of Health officers this month to discuss the impact of the changing nature of primary care, how CPPs are needing to respond in relation to these changes and what additional support is needed. Members’ input and experience in relation to this particular issue would be welcome in the preparation of briefing material for this meeting.