21 October 2019

GPs to set vision for primary care reform

General practice Policy TheHill

GPs Dr Steve Hambleton and Dr Walid Jammal will co-chair a newly formed Primary Health Reform Steering Group announced on Friday by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, to advise on the development of a Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan.

The plan will be part of the government’s Long Term National Health Plan, which aims to make the health system “more person-centred, integrated, efficient and equitable”.

The members, who first met with Mr Hunt on Thursday and will be meeting and consulting until next September, also include RACGP president Harry Nespolon, AMA president Dr Tony Bartone, ACRRM president Dr Ewen McPhee, Dr Dawn Casey from the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Consumer Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells, and representatives of nursing and allied health practitioners.

The first agenda item is the implementation of the federal budget measure known provisionally as “Flexible Medicare”, under which general practices will receive quarterly payments for enrolled chronic care patients aged over 70 – a welcomed shift away from purely episodic funding.

Dr Nespolon said if this came to fruition it would be a major change in how Medicare is delivered.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but this could really be an opportunity to care for our patients with chronic illness in a different, and hopefully a better, way,” he told The Medical Republic.

“The over-70s are the ideal group on which to test [this more flexible funding model]. If we can move away from having to do face-to-face services in this group we may be able to expand it to other patient groups.”

The steering group members weren’t authorised to comment on any other deliberations, however.

Mr Hunt said the next step would be “the establishment of a broad-based Consultation Group with representation from across the sector to help guide and respond to public consultations”.

“My department will also be convening targeted consultations and roundtables on key issues to help inform the plan,” he said.

“I am confident the Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan will strengthen and modernise Australia’s primary healthcare system into the future, and I look forward to building community consensus behind it.”

Dr Bartone said he couldn’t comment on the deliberations at the meeting, but that the AMA had always been clear on what the future of general practice needed to be.

“The AMA has a very clear view about the centrality of general practice and the importance of multidisciplinary teams led by general practitioners, and that they should be appropriately funded,” he told TMR. “Nothing’s changed there.”