GP Network News, Issue 11, Number 43 - 4 November 2011

4 Nov 2011

AMA Council of General Practice (AMACGP) meeting

The AMACGP had their final meeting for the year last weekend.

The main issues discussed included:

  • Medicare Locals;
  • Developing a position on Practice Care Coordinators;
  • Strategies to support GPs in the wake of mental health funding cuts;
  • Improving support for International Medical Graduates;
  • Development of a new AMA Out of Hours Primary Health Care Position Statement; and
  • Finalisation of the AMA Red Tape Survey Report, details of which will be released soon.

The AMACGP will next meet on 18/19 February 2012.

Report of the Senate Community Affairs Inquiry into funding and administration of mental health services

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that this week’s messy and divided outcome from the Senate Community Affairs Inquiry into funding and administration of mental health services reflects the enormity of the community interest in mental health, and the confusing and misinformed input from some key stakeholders.

Dr Hambleton said the Inquiry’s majority and minority reports place further doubt on the rationale for the Government’s cuts to mental health services accessed through general practice under the Better Access program, which took effect from this week.

Dr Hambleton noted that the Inquiry was unable to reach a consensus view and  the Government had issued a minority report. The Committee members were divided in their opinions and did not fully appreciated or understand the key role of GPs in helping people with mental illness.

Dr Hambleton also expressed concern that the Department of Health and Ageing did not properly assist the Committee with evidence by comparing GP mental health consultations to normal GP consultations instead of a more appropriate comparison to a GP Management Plan.

“Medicare rebates for mental illness will now be lower than those for physical conditions.”

The Coalition minority report correctly identified the cuts to Medicare rebates for GP mental health services as being a cost saving exercise implemented with no genuine consultation with GP groups.

The AMA will continue to lobby for restoration of the Better Access funding and will monitor the effect that the Government’s changes will have on some of the most vulnerable patients in the community.

For the full press release click here.

The AMA has prepared an information kit that practices can use to help patients understand the new Medicare rebate structure following these cuts and the extent to which the Government has reduced their Medicare entitlements.

AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2011

The AMA released its annual Public Hospital Report Card on Thursday. Disappointingly, there was little improvement in public hospital capacity and performance across Australia in 2009-10, despite additional Commonwealth funding.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that public hospital performance in every State and Territory is well below the targets for access to emergency departments and elective surgery set by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

“There are only 2.6 public hospitals beds for every 1000 people, which is down 3.5 per cent from the previous year.”

Dr Hambleton said that elective surgery waiting time data is being manipulated by the practice of creating ‘hidden waiting lists’. The clock starts on waiting times for elective surgery only after the patient has seen a specialist and is booked for surgery, but they may have already waited up to six months beforehand to see the specialist.

Median waiting times for elective surgery have substantially deteriorated over time. In 2009-2010 it was 35 days. Eight years ago it was only 27 days. To read the full press release or to download a copy of the AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2011 click here.

Information pack for practitioners treating jockeys

An information pack recently launched by the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation (RIRDC) may be of interest to GPs who treat jockeys or are involved with jockey health, safety and welfare. Information in the pack aims to give doctors a better understanding of the inherent requirements of being a jockey. A free download of the information pack is available here.


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In this Issue

AMA Council of General Practice meeting

Report of the Senate Community Affairs Inquiry

AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2011

Treating jockeys

Powerbuy - Great Savings on Popular I.T. Brands

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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. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing