GP Network News, Issue 12, Number 02 - 20 January 2012

20 Jan 2012

Misguided attack on doctors

In a recent MJA article former Professional Services Review (PSR) Director, Dr Tony Webber attacked Medicare and in the process attacked the integrity of AMA members and every other quality doctor in Australia.

In 2010-11, more than 319 million services attracted a Medicare rebate, at a cost to the taxpayer of $16.4 billion. Medicare identified $28.24 million in incorrect payments, well short of the expected recoveries of $147.2 million per annum as predicted in the 2008-09 budget and well short of the 2-3 billion dollars of misuse estimated by the “modest extrapolation” by Dr Webber.

A total of 56 health professionals were referred to the PSR as a result of Medicare Audits with $2.2 million being sought by the PSR in repayment benefits. Whilst the AMA supports the stamping out of any rorting of the system, it does not see this as evidence that Medicare compliance activities are failing the Australian people. It is an unfortunate reality that a very small number of doctors choose to misuse the system and the AMA believes these doctors should be investigated and brought to account.

The vast majority of doctors are doing the right thing by their patients, by the system and by their own very high standards. The AMA will continue to stand up for the overwhelming majority of Australian doctors and their honesty and integrity.

Listen to AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton’s radio interview discussing Medicare, energy drinks and prescription drugs or read the transcript.

AMA Practice nurse survey

Last year the AMA wrote to GPs regarding the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) application for a low paid bargaining authorisation for practice nurses that is currently before Fair Work Australia (FWA).

While the AMA firmly believes that practice nurses do a wonderful job in supporting GPs and other specialists to deliver quality care, we do not agree that they fall into the category of low paid as envisaged by the Fair Work Act.

The AMA appeared in preliminary proceedings before FWA on 19 December 2011 to oppose the ANF’s claim, which in effect seeks to impose an enterprise agreement on hundreds of practices. There is little doubt that the ANF will look to rope more practices into the union’s claim if it receives a favourable ruling from FWA.

Hearings in this case have now been scheduled for late June and the AMA is required to lodge submissions by 18 May.

To assist the AMA in preparing for this case, we are conducting a survey of practices that employ nurses to gather information on the current working conditions of practice nursing staff. The survey is open to members and non-members alike and can be completed by clicking here. The survey will run until 10 February 2012.

Reducing Red Tape

The AMA recently met with officials from Centrelink and Medicare to discuss the findings of the AMA’s red tape survey conducted last year. Completing Centrelink forms was the number one area of concern GPs identified in the survey and the AMA was able to provide feedback from the survey to the officials about where red tape should be cut. In particular, the AMA advised Centrelink that priority should be given to:

  • Improving software compatibility to make sure forms are easily accessible and downloadable in GP offices;
  • Software must also enable GPs to have Centrelink forms open and be able to have their patient medical records open at the same time;
  • As much as possible, forms need to pre-populate with known data;
  • Repetition in forms needs to be cut; and
  • Links should be made to forms that often need to be completed at the same time (eg Disability Support Pension, Carers’ Assistance, Mobility Assistance)

The AMA also stressed that any redesign of Centrelink forms needs to be undertaken with input and feedback from GPs. Centrelink are working towards some improvements and clearly the AMA’s red tape survey has been influential in this. The summary report of the AMA’s red tape survey can be found here.

Medical Board of Australia (MBA) Guidelines on Technology-based Consultations

The MBA has developed and released guidelines on technology-based consultations under s. 39 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act (the National Law) in force in each State and Territory. The guidelines aim to inform registered medical practitioners and the community about the Board’s expectations of medical practitioners who participate in technology-based patient consultations. The MBA advises these guidelines complement "Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia" (Good Medical Practice) and provide specific guidance on technology-based patient consultations. These guidelines are relevant to:

  • medical practitioners registered under the National Law;
  • employers of medical practitioners; and
  • patients and the community

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

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In this Issue

Misguided attack on doctors

AMA Practice nurse survey

Reducing Red Tape

Medical Board of Australia Guidelines on Technology-based Consultations

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