GP Network News, Issue 11, Number 18 - 13 May 2011
AMA Vice President, Dr Steve Hambleton, will be elected unopposed as President later this month. Dr Hambleton, a GP from Brisbane, is the sole candidate for the presidency and will be formally elected at the AMA National Conference in Brisbane on 27-28 May. Dr Hambleton replaces Dr Andrew Pesce, who is retiring after serving two years as President. Dr Geoffrey Dobb, the Director of Critical Care at Royal Perth Hospital, will be elected unopposed as Vice President. Dr Peter Ford, a GP from Adelaide, will remain as Treasurer. Three nominations have been received for the position of Chairman of Federal Council so an election is necessary at AMA National Conference. The nominees are Dr Iain Dunlop, Dr Wayne Herdy and Dr Roderick McRae.
AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said that the Government has dramatically devalued the role of the family doctor in managing community mental health by slashing the MBS patient rebate for GP Mental Health Plans to help fund its belated catch-up mental health package.
Dr Pesce said that a recent independent review of the mental health Better Access program found that 90 per cent of GPs had provided a service under the program, and more than 85 per cent of these patients had received a mental health care plan from their usual GP. The Government has denied it intends to divert funds from direct patient care, but the package shows it will hand valuable mental health funding over to NGOs and to a new bureaucracy in Medicare Locals, Dr Pesce said.
The Government investment in mental health is welcome, but the cuts to frontline care through general practice will seriously undermine other initiatives. A copy of the full press release is here.
There is a regional and rural aspect to the Budget with substantial funding to regional health infrastructure.
The negative component for GPs is that the GP Mental Health Treatment Plan item has been significantly reduced and restructured. The Government says the decision is to better reflect the time usually taken to complete the plan. The item will be restructured into two time tiered items with a rebate of $85.92 for plans taking between 20-39 minutes and $126.43 for plans taking 40 or more minutes.
The rebates will be even lower for those GPs who have not completed the RACGP's mental health skills training ($67.65 and $99.55 respectively). Rebates for other mental health services provided by GPs will also be amended to reflect the changes in the rebates for the Mental Health Treatment Plans. The Government anticipates this measure will save $405.8m over 5 years. These savings will be redirected to other aspects of the Mental Health Reform package. This cut to the GP Mental Health plan however will make access to treatment less affordable to patients and undervalues GPs role as the access point to coordinated care.
In addition, the psychology consultations available under the Better Access program have been capped at 10 rather than 12, reflecting the majority of patients accessing this care receive between one to ten services per year. The $174.6 million in savings generated from this will be redirected to Medicare Locals who will fundhold for and coordinate ATAPS services. The link to Budget papers is here.
The item changes will come into effect from 1 November 2011. The AMA intends to strenuously oppose these changes.
A minor positive in the budget, sought by the AMA for many years, has been the decision to allow GP ordered rebateable MRIs.
Currently, Medicare-eligible MRI scans can only be requested by specialists or consultant physicians. From 1 November 2012, GPs will be able to request MRIs for all patients under 16 years of age for clinically appropriate indications.
From 1 November 2013, GPs will be able to request MRIs for all patients over 16 years of age for clinically appropriate indications. To help GPs ensure every patient receives the most appropriate imaging, the extension of requesting rights for these items will be made contingent on the development and dissemination of clinical guidelines. GP requesting will have a significant impact on access for patients to timely Medicare eligible MRI services.
The Remote Vocational Training Scheme is a vocational training program for medical practitioners in remote and isolated communities throughout Australia. The training provided meets the requirements for Fellowship of both ACRRM and RACGP.
The RVTS is a 4 year program that has been designed to deliver structured distance education and supervision to doctors while they continue to provide general medical services to a remote and/or isolated community.
Applications for the 2012 intake are now open and close at 5pm AEST on Thursday 9 June 2011. Twenty-two positions are available nationally for training commencing 30 January 2012. RVTS offers an alternative pathway to FRACGP/FARGP and FACRRM for GPs working in remote and rural locations. The curriculum is delivered via distance education and registrars are supervised remotely.
This is an opportunity for non-VR doctors located in rural or remote locations to train for GP Fellowship without leaving their communities. Key points for the 2012 intake include:
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