GP Network News, Issue 12 Number 19

18 May 2012

ANF pay claim for practice nurses – Important update

Last year, the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) made an application to Fair Work Australia (FWA) for a low paid bargaining authorisation for practice nurses, which in effect seeks to impose an enterprise agreement on around 900 medical practices.

The AMA appeared in preliminary proceedings before FWA on 19 December 2011 to oppose the ANF’s claim and over 140 practices have provided the AMA with the authority to appear on their behalf in these proceedings.

Hearings will be held in the week beginning 25 June 2012, although an urgent hearing to address several defects in the ANF’s application has been scheduled for 1 June 2012 following a request from the AMA.

Many practices who are named in the ANF’s claim appear to have ignored it and are not currently represented before FWA. The claim at this stage affects practices in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW.

It is not too late for practices that have been sent the ANF claim to give the AMA an authority to act on their behalf. We will provide this representation at no cost for members. A pro-forma authority to act is available here.

The AMA has engaged a team of specialist industrial lawyers from Moray and Agnew to appear in these proceedings and it is anticipated that we will call 15 witnesses in the case, including expert economic evidence.

Practice nurses play a valuable role in caring for patients and their utilisation in medical practices has grown significantly, particularly in recent years. The ANF’s claim clearly has the potential to interfere with existing employment arrangements that are working well at the local level and, as a result, reduce patient access to care.

In this context, the AMA will continue to invest significant resources to resist the ANF’s claim to ensure that practices are able to negotiate appropriate working conditions that meet the needs of practices and nurses alike. The AMA is also concerned at the potential for this claim to spread to other practices.

If you have any questions regarding the ANF’s application for a low paid bargaining authorisation, please do not hesitate to contact your local state/territory AMA.

ANAO Conducting Audit Of GP Super Clinics Program

The AMA welcomes advice that the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) last week commenced an official audit of the Government’s troubled GP Super Clinics Program. The AMA has been calling for the audit since October last year.

The ANAO will assess the effectiveness of the Department of Health and Ageing's (DoHA) administration of the GP Super Clinics Program, which was intended to support improved community access to integrated GP and primary health care services.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton said that the GP Super Clinics Program is a failed initiative in concept, design and implementation, and that a proper audit is overdue. He added that the AMA is not opposed to the establishment of GP Super Clinics, but they must be located in areas of community need, rather than in areas of political advantage.

“The public deserves answers about what is happening with a significant investment of taxpayer money. Hopefully the Auditor-General will get to the bottom of these problems.

“If the Program is found to be failing, the AMA recommends that the GP Super Clinic funding be redirected to support new infrastructure and services for existing general practices,” Dr Hambleton said.

Click here to view the full press release.

AMA calls for urgent meeting regarding Federal Budget PIP Cuts

Dr Hambleton wrote this week to the Minister for Health and Ageing, raising concerns about the impact of cuts announced in the 2012-13 Federal Budget to the Practice Incentive Payments (PIP) program, including the decision to remove access to the e-Health incentive unless practices participate in the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system.

The letter expressed disappointment that the engine room of the health system, general practice, is once again the target of funding cuts and that the cessation of the General Practice Immunisation Incentive withdraws essential support for practices to undertake a very pro-active approach to encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated.

Dr Hambleton stated in the letter that requiring practices to participate in the PCEHR to receive the PIP eHealth Incentive will undermine the Government’s efforts to make the PCEHR a success and that it is too early to force participation as there is still much work to be done before medical practices can confidently adopt the PCEHR into their day-to-day operations and meet the legal obligations imposed by the PCEHR legislation.

This is in addition to no funding being made available to support an important new service involved in preparing the Shared Health Summary (SHS).

AMA President address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Dr Hambleton addressed the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) - Health Industry Overview forum this week with a speech entitled “Health Reform – From Big Bang to a Whimper”.

Dr Hambleton said that the biggest element of health reform now confronting us is electronic health, specifically the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).

“The AMA is a great supporter of, and advocate for, accurate electronic communication. It is the future.

“We support the introduction of the PCEHR – but it has to be the right PCEHR.

“Most AMA members are enthusiastic about the shared electronic health record vision. They know that, with the right system, they can improve the patient healthcare experience”, Dr Hambleton said.

Dr Hambleton expressed concern over the Government’s requirement that general practices participate in the PCEHR in order to attract ehealth practice incentive payments.

“There is plenty of commentary recognising that general practice will have to make the most investment in the PCEHR both in time and money and will realise the least amount of benefit from it.

“Doctors need greater support than what is on offer if the PCEHR is going to truly work to improve patient care and reduce waste and risk in health care”, Dr Hambleton said.

Click here to view AMA President’s speech to CEDA.

Changes to the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program

New restrictions to the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program (MHNIP) were announced in the 2012-13 Budget. From 9 May 2012, no new organisations or nurses can join the Program unless existing participants leave, and organisations and nurses will need to maintain client services at existing levels.

Additional funding of $16.5 million for MHNIP was provided in the 2012-13 Budget, but this was only to ensure 2011-12 service levels are maintained throughout 2012-13, while an evaluation of the program is undertaken.

The changes mean that the MHNIP, which allows eligible organisations who engage mental health nurses to assist in the provision of coordinated clinical care for people with severe mental disorders, will be prevented from delivering benefits to a significant number of patients in need.

This Program has been in great demand, with over 40,000 people being provided with a MHNIP service in 2010-11. That is 4,000 more than originally anticipated by the Department of Health and Ageing. Based on current uptake, according to the Department, the annual number of people receiving a service may exceed 47,000 for the 2011-12 financial year.

Guidelines and resources on prescribing drugs of addiction

The AMA Therapeutics Committee has developed a ‘one-stop-shop’ web page for AMA members providing links to key guidelines, resources and other information available to support medical practitioners prescribing drugs of addiction.

The links include:

  • The latest independent drug information about opioids and treatments provided by the National Prescribing Service;
  • the ‘Dr Shopper Line’ operated by the Department of Human Services;
  • the RACGP guidelines on prescribing benzodiazepines;
  • steps to follow when ending the doctor-patient relationship produced by MDA National;
  • statistical information on pharmacotherapy for opioid dependence produced by AIHW; and
  • State and Territory government funded drugs of dependence units.

You can view the Prescribing drugs of addiction support page at: (Remember you need to log in with your member details first.)

A direct link to the page is also located on the AMA members' home page in the box titled AMA information and resources.

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In this issue

ANF pay claim for practice nurses – Important update

ANAO Conducting Audit Of GP Super Clinics Program

AMA calls for urgent meeting regarding Federal Budget PIP Cuts

AMA President address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Changes to the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program

Guidelines and resources on prescribing drugs of addiction

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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