GP Network News, Issue 11, Number 24 - 24 June 2011
The AMA continues to campaign for a reversal to the Government’s recent Budget cuts to Medicare general practice mental health items under the Better Access Program. The cuts will mean mental health patients will receive a significantly lower rebate for the preparation of a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan than people with other chronic conditions who need a GP Management Plan. This is despite the extra work and responsibility involved in preparing a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan.
The Independent Centre for Health Policy recently reviewed the Better Access Program. The review found that patient access to care had been substantially improved and that the Program is achieving positive outcomes. It said that the Better Access Program is cost effective and has a positive effect on people with moderate to severe common mental health disorders. A copy of the full AMA press release is here.
BREAKING NEWS: Senate inquiry vindicates AMA stance on mental health cuts and comes in response to AMA’s efforts to highlight the impacts of the Government’s cuts to GP mental health items. Click here for AMA press release.
The AMA has launched an online survey to assess the impact of the cuts on general practitioners and their patients. The information gathered will provide vital information to support ongoing campaign activity. Click here for the survey.
UGPA, of which the AMA is a key member, has vowed to intensify its campaign to convince the Government to restore the Medicare patient rebates for mental health services that were cut in the recent Budget.
AMA Chair of Council of General Practice, Dr Brian Morton representing the President, and other UGPA leaders met on Tuesday with the Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler and senior advisers from the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon’s office to put forward the case that from November many people with mental illness would no longer be able to afford to see their GP for mental health plans because the Medicare rebates will be between 25 and 50 per cent lower than today.
While the Minister said there was no room for change or negotiation, UGPA remains determined to stay engaged with the Government to have the rebates restored and will provide compelling evidence and arguments to show the cuts will seriously diminish vital frontline mental health services provided in the community by GPs.
The full press release is here.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, has written to the Chairs of the first 19 Medicare Locals, outlining our concerns at the haste with which the Government’s Medicare Local policy is being implemented, the lack of detail and genuine consultation with the broader medical profession. The letter emphasises the AMA’s position on Medicare Locals and sets out what we think should be the main functions of primary health care organisations, such as Medicare Locals. Each Medicare Local has been asked to provide a commitment that they will adhere to the principles outlined by the AMA in its position statement and, in particular, to:
AMA surveys have found that the majority of doctors are skeptical about the effectiveness of proposed Medicare Locals funding. The AMA will continue to highlight flaws in the Government’s model and advocate for the adoption of key principles developed by the AMA Council of General Practice in our Position Statement, a copy of which is here.
The Government’s after hours GP helpline program will start operating in most States and Territories on July 1 with a team of about 100 GPs and 240 nurses. The successful tenderer, Medibank Health Solutions will operate the service which will be an add-on to existing telephone-based nurse triage, information and advice services. The service will be available in Queensland from early 2012 and the Government is waiting for a response from the Victorian Government to its offer to connect this service to the existing Victorian nurse advice line.
The service will be free to landline callers between 6pm and 8am Monday to Friday, 6pm Friday to 8am Saturday, 12pm Saturday to 8am Monday and on all public holidays across the nation.
This service will complement existing GP after hours services. The AMA, through the After Hours Technical Working Group, continues to raise matters of concern around the implementation of the after hours reforms to ensure that existing providers of after hours services are not disadvantaged under the new arrangements.
The AMA is pleased that the Government has decided to list several previously unsubsidised life saving drugs on the PBS. However, the AMA remains concerned that Cabinet has the ultimate say on whether the Government funds medicines that have been recommended by PBAC, and that the critieria for the funding decisions is unknown. AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton said recently in a radio interview that ‘…Cabinet slows down the funding of these products. That puts Australia in a difficult position internationally in that we are a small population. There are patients out there who need access to these drugs and the drugs we are concerned about have been rigorously tested by PBAC and recommendations are not made lightly…’
FDW is just over 3 weeks away. The AMA will be using FDW to highlight the importance of having a family doctor and the excellent care that only a GP can provide.
During FDW the AMA will be advocating for the needs of family doctors, so stay in touch with the website during that week.
The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) has confirmed that the 2011 application round for the RHCE (Stream 2) is now open and will close on 8 August 2011. The program supports qualified health professionals working in rural and remote Australia undertake continuing professional development and inter-professional learning activities. For more information about the program click here. Guidelines on how to apply are here.
We welcome your comments and suggestions as well. Please tell us what you think.