GP Network News, Issue 11, Number 47 - 2 December 2011

2 Dec 2011

President visits NSW

Federal AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, spent two days in NSW this week meeting with local family doctors hearing first hand how they are dealing with health reforms and policies, most notably Medicare Locals, GP Super Clinics, and Local Hospital Networks, with a special focus on working to improve the integration between hospitals and general practice.

AMA urges changes to the National Health Amendment (Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement Initiatives) Bill

The AMA has written to all MPs and Senators urging their support for changes to the National Health Amendment (Fifth Community Pharmacy Initiatives Agreement) Bill introduced in Parliament last week.

The Bill in its current form would permit a significant change in the professional role of pharmacists that the AMA believes is not in the best interests of patients or the professional relationship between doctors and pharmacists, AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton said. ‘The Bill would allow pharmacists to dispense prescription medication without a valid prescription and without consulting a patient’s doctor beforehand’. The practice, which the Pharmacy Guild calls ‘continued dispensing’, is strongly opposed by the AMA. ‘Only doctors are adequately trained to make assessments about a patient’s clinical condition and the need for medical treatment. A pharmacist has no way of knowing whether the patient’s doctor intends the patient to continue with a particular medication, to adjust it, or to cease treatment’ said Dr Hambleton.

While Dr Hambleton stated that doctors place a high value on the professional role of pharmacists, he also noted that ‘dispensing prescription medication without a prescription presents a fundamental conflict of interest – it allows the pharmacist to become both the prescriber and the dispenser’. The AMA will continue to lobby to have the Bill changed. The full press release is here.

DVA launches in-home telemonitoring pilot

Dr Brian Morton, Chair of AMACGP, attended this week’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs launch of their in-home telemonitoring pilot. The $8 million trial will use high speed and high capacity broadband capability to enable veterans’ vital statistics to be monitored from home and veterans will also have access to high definition consultations with their GP or nurse coordinator.

Dr Morton welcomed the Government’s trial of in-home telemonitoring and said ‘the telemonitoring trial will prove beneficial and pave the way for expansion to the wider community in the years ahead. Telemonitoring consultations will enable GPs to monitor patient conditions in their own home, promoting early intervention and reducing preventable hospitalisations.’

The DVA press release on the in-home telemonitoring trial can be found here.

Climate Change Report

The Climate Commission’s recently released report: The Critical Decade: Climate Change and Health adds further weight to the AMA’s call for a National Strategy on Climate Change AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton said.

Dr Hambleton said the AMA shares the view of the Climate Commission that climate change poses a real and imminent threat to the health of Australians. ‘The Government must develop a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change to ensure Australians can respond effectively to the health impacts of climate change’ he said.

This National Strategy should incorporate:

  • Strong communication linkages between hospitals, major medical centers, general practitioners and emergency response agencies, to maximise efficient use of health resources in extreme weather events;
  • Localised disaster management plans for specific geographical regions that model potential adverse health outcomes in those areas;
  • Nationally coordinated surveillance measures to prevent exotic disease vectors from becoming established in Australia;
  • Development of effective interventions to address mental health issues arising from extreme events, including those involving mass casualties and from longer-term changes, including drought; and
  • A register of recently retired competent medical practitioners who are willing to assist in providing medical services during a national emergency.

View the press release and the AMA Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Hospital Statistics 2010-11

The AIHW report, Australian Hospital Statistics 2010-2011: Emergency Department Care and Elective Surgery Waiting Times reports on the latest available data for emergency department care and elective surgery waiting times for 2010-11. On the basic measures there has been no real change in the capacity of our public hospitals to meet demand. In 2010-11, only 65% of emergency department patients classified as urgent were seen within the recommended 30 minutes up from 64% in the previous year. The median waiting time for elective surgery has increased by 1 day to 36 days.

However, there is no data on the percentage of patients admitted within the clinically recommended time for each category of surgery. The AMA had to use Freedom of Information laws to get this data for the 2011 AMA Hospital Report Card.

COAG has agreed to implement a National Elective Surgery Target of 100% of all patients waiting for elective surgery to be treated within the clinically recommend times. Given this is now a key national measure of public hospital performance, it is inconceivable that the Government has not reported this information for 2010-11.

This highlights that COAG needs to take immediate steps to have nationally consistent reporting on elective surgery data, including information about the number of people who have been referred by a general practitioner for assessment by a specialist (who are currently not counted).

View the AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2011 and the AIHW report.

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In this Issue

President visits NSW

AMA urges changes to the National Health Amendment (Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement Initiatives) Bill

DVA launches in-home telemonitoring pilot

Climate Change Report

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Hospital Statistics 2010-11

The AMA Gold Credit Card from American Express

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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