GP Network News, Issue 11, Number 19 - 20 May 2011

20 May 2011

GP Mental Health Treatment Plans

The AMA has continued its opposition to the decision in the Federal Budget to slash GP Mental Health Treatment Plan items under the Better Access Program. Commenting on an article in the MJA by Professor Ian Hickie, AMACGP Chair Dr Brian Morton said “I find your statement that ‘GPs have allowed their role in Better Access to dwindle to that of glorified referrers’ to be inaccurate and offensive.”

Noting that the Better Access Program had been recently positively reviewed by an independent body, Dr Morton further said “the review finds that access has been substantially improved and continues to be improved, it is achieving positive outcomes, is cost effective and impacts on people with moderate to severe common mental disorders.” At the same time, there has been much criticism in the media of the lack of an evidence base behind the Headspace program, which will benefit from the cuts to Better Access funding.

There has been a strong reaction from members and further activities are planned in opposing the government decision to slash rebates.

2011-12 Federal Budget analysis

Access Economics has provided a brief analysis of last week's budget, which is available online.  You will need to log into the AMA website to view the analysis.

AMA resources for setting fees and transitioning to patient billing

The AMA encourages medical practitioners to determine their own fees based on their own practice costs. To guide medical practitioners in determining their fees and to assist those considering the move from bulk billing to patient billing, the AMA offers a comprehensive series of tools and resources which are available on our website.

Some of these tools are:

  • AMA List of Medical Services and Fees 1 May 2011 (members only)

The AMA Fees List is available in PDF and CSV (comma separated variable) file for importing into practice management software. 

  • AMA Gaps Poster

This is produced to assist doctors explain to patients why they might have to pay a gap. The poster is downloadable in A4 or order a colour A3 size.  Ideal for waiting rooms, the poster shows the effect of the difference between the indexation of Medicare Schedule fees and the indices for Consumer Price Index and average weekly earnings.  Available here.  

  • AMA template letter to patients about increased medical fees (members only)

This template letter has been prepared for medical practitioners to provide to patients to inform them about why the practice has had to increase its fee and why out-of-pocket costs for patients are increasing. Available here.

  • AMA checklist when increasing fees and transitioning to patient billing (members only)

This is a list of tasks designed to aid medical practitioners in preparing for and implementing a smooth transition to patient billing. The checklist includes things like; ensuring a notice to introduce bulk billing is provided to patients well in advance; installing a sign in your practice letting patients know the practice no longer bulk bills and; ensuring your staff are trained to handle queries regarding the change. Available here.

  • Testimonials from Medical Practitioners who have successfully moved to patient billing (members only)

The decision to move from bulk billing to patient billing can be difficult and challenging. Increasingly medical practitioners are finding this move necessary to remain viable and continue delivering quality medical care. These testimonials reflect the positive outcomes experienced by doctors who have made the transition. Available here.

  • AMA Fees Calculator (members only)

The AMA has developed a fees calculator for the benefit of members to calculate your own personal fee increase based on your individual cost profile.

These resources are updated regularly as appropriate and are useful tools for guiding medical practitioners in setting and increasing fees.

 AMA Annual Report 2010

The AMA Annual Report 2010 was released recently. The AMA Council of General Practice (AMACGP) reported on key achievements for general practice in which the AMACGP played an influential role. These included:

  • securing a specialty register for general practice and the grandfathering of vocationally registered GPs to the register
  • commissioning qualitative research on public perceptions of GPs services and GPs’ perceptions of themselves, their work and the issues impacting on them and the AMA
  • the superiority of the AMA Chronic and Complex Care Plan and concerns about the Government’s Coordinated Diabetes Case Plan resulted in the Government delaying implementation of the plan in favour of a trail
  • inclusion of a legislative requirement for nurse practitioners and midwives to have collaborative care arrangements with medical practitioners before being eligible for access to the MBS and PBS rebates
  • advocacy for Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs), whose rebates have been frozen for nearly 20 year
  • increased government funding to:
    • support general practice build infrastructure and enhance capacity to develop multidisciplinary practices
    • train more students, more pre-vocational doctors and GP trainees in the work of general practice
    • advance e-health
    • improve access to GP care for the aged
    • further streamline the PBS authority system
    • enable more practices to employ a practice nurse

A copy of the report is here.

AMA Indigenous Health Report Card 2010-11

The ninth annual AMA Indigenous Report Card was released recently. The AMA Vice President and Chair of the AMA Indigenous Health Taskforce, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that more needs to be done in a practical way to build on the momentum of significant Government investment of more than $1.6billion to Close the Gap in Indigenous Health. The gap in life expectancy would not close unless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have full access to high quality primary health care, he said. A copy of the full press release is here.

The 2010-11 Report Card makes a series of 8 recommendations to Government including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must play a leading role in planning their primary health care
  • Aboriginal medical services must not be disadvantaged in any changes to primary care funding arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories
  • Priority must be given to building the capacity of Aboriginal community-controlled primary care services, so they can maximize their high potential for best practice
  • Private general practices and community health centres must be further empowered to provide accessible high quality care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The full 19 page report is here.

The 6 page summary is here.

Nurse Practitioner Models of Practice in Aged Care Grants

The Department of Health and Ageing is seeking applications from eligible individuals and organisations to develop, test and evaluate innovative models of practice for nurse practitioners in residential and community based aged care. This may include individual nurse practitioners or organisations such as general practice and those in the aged care sector.

The AMA encourages its members who practice in the aged care sector to apply. It is important that the trial adequately assesses models of medical practitioners collaborating with nurse practitioners against models where nurse practitioners are employed by aged care facilities.

The initiative aims to establish a range of self-sustaining practice models that improve access to the primary care of older people as well as supporting the growth of the nurse practitioner workforce.

Applicants may apply for a total value up to $700,000 per proposal. For those interested in applying, the Department of Health and Ageing website contains information, guidelines, a sample application form and the standard funding agreement that successful applicants will be required to sign.

This information is on the Department’s website. Applications close at 2:00pm (AEST) on 14 June 2011.


We welcome your comments and suggestions as well.  Please tell us what you think.

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In this Issue

GP Mental Health Treatment Plans

2011-12 Federal Budget analysis

AMA resources for setting fees and transitioning to patient billing

AMA Annual Report 2010

AMA Indigenous Health Report Card 2010-11

Nurse Practitioner Models of Practice in Aged Care Grants

Use your American Express card and you could have the chance to win 750,000 Rewards Points*

Email the AMA

Post new comment to the website


AMA is the peak medical organisation in Australia representing the profession’s interests to Government and the wider community.
Your Federal AMA General Practice Policy team can be contacted via email or by phone (02) 6270 5400
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