24 September 2018

Mental health still GPs’ biggest concern

General practice Mental Health

Mental health remains the most common reason for Australian patients to consult a GP and is also the issue causing GPs the most concern as they look to the future. 

The RACGP’s Health of the Nation 2018 report, released last week, showed anxiety, depression and mood disorders were the most commonly managed conditions at GP clinics. 

A survey of 1500 GPs, asked to name the top three ailments they dealt with, found psychological problems figured in 62% of responses, a number almost identical to the finding of 61% in last year’s inaugural report.

RACGP president-elect Dr Harry Nespolon used the result to call for more action on mental health as he launched the report at a breakfast with politicians in Canberra. 

“If there is not a substantial and coordinated push to address these persisting health issues, I am fearful of what the future may hold for Australia’s healthcare system,” he said.

“I hope that parliamentarians from all sides take note of the health of the nation today and remember that evidence-based preventive care is always the best option for all Australians.”

After psychological issues, the next major concern for GPs was obesity, followed by diabetes and aged care.

GPs wanted to see urgent government action on Medicare, including better supports for mental health services and obesity prevention, Dr Nespolon said.

Despite general practice being the most widely accessed healthcare service, it received less than 9% of overall government healthcare funding, he said.

Among other findings, four out of five GPs reported that they had seen or experienced violence at their place of work, with nearly one in three seeing or experiencing violence on at least a monthly basis. 

On a more positive note, on most counts GPs reported high levels of satisfaction in their work. 

Nearly 90% said they were moderately, or very satisfied with their professional lives overall. More than 50% were very satisfied about aspects such as freedom to choose their methods of working, physical work conditions, amount of responsibility and colleagues.

However, nearly a quarter of respondents were very, or moderately, dissatisfied with their remuneration.

The report found most GPs (82%) were remunerated as a proportion of billings, but 14% of practice owners indicated that they were also rewarded in “other” ways, such as a proportion of profit or a partnership distribution. 

Of the GPs receiving a proportion of billings, 58% reported that the proportion had not changed in the past five years.