Federal Budget – What it means for general practice

10 May 2018

This year’s Federal Budget confirmed the progressive lifting of the MBS freeze, with the indexation of standard GP attendance items due to recommence from 1 July 2018.

While welcoming this step, AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon said “new and considerable investment in general practice is missing and the signature primary care reform – Health Care Homes – did not rate a mention”.

The Budget also announced the establishment of the Workforce Incentive Program, which will incorporate and expand on the existing Practice Nurse Incentive Program and the GP Rural Incentive Program.

Under this new program subsidy support will be extended to assist general practices to employ other health professionals, including non-dispensing pharmacists. The AMA has been pushing for the latter, having first proposed this in the AMA’s Pharmacist in General Practice Incentive Program that was released in 2015.

Rural general practice workforce was also a significant focus of the Budget, with the announcement of additional prevocational GP training places for rural areas as well as a commitment to 100 extra GP training places, earmarked for rural generalists. These are policy measures that have been strongly pursued by the AMA.

The Government will also provide funding support for non-vocationally registered doctors to progress to College Fellowship, which is particularly relevant for rural areas as these are very reliant on International Medical Graduates (IMGs) to deliver care.

The Government also announced changes for veterans accessing Department of Veterans’ Affairs funded allied health services. While only limited detail is available, this appears to be aimed at addressing concerns expressed by the AMA and other medical groups about some allied health providers not communicating back to the referring GP or persisting with treatment when it may no longer be clinically necessary.

The AMA has already sought briefings from the Department of Health to seek more detail on the Budget proposals and their implementation.

While describing the Budget as ‘safe and steady’ Dr Gannon highlighted that it was notable as much for what was not in it as for what was in it. For more details of the AMA’s Budget night response, read the full media release here, and the AMA’s media release on rural health measures here.