GP Network News Issue 12 Number 38

28 Sep 2012

AMA Welcomes Review of Health Workforce Programs

The Commonwealth Government announced this week a review of its health workforce programs. The aim of the review will be to better align the programs with current and emerging health workforce priorities, such as the needs of an ageing population and the need for people across the country to access health professionals, particularly in areas currently experiencing workforce shortages.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said the Commonwealth has developed a multitude of medical workforce programs over many years, and there is now a real need to ensure these programs are still relevant and properly funded. The AMA looks forward to playing a major role in the consultation process.

Some of the issues the AMA intends to discuss during the consultation include addressing the potential training bottlenecks created by a shortage of intern places, the need for a comprehensive solution to provide rural and remote communities with better access to medical services, and the continued development of collaborative team-based care arrangements – based on a medical diagnosis.

View the AMA press release here.

Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) Contract for Medical Services to Defence Forces

Many doctors, earlier this week, would have received a letter from MHS inviting them to be part of the MHS network of ‘preferred specialist providers’. MHS is offering contracts to provide referred specialist services to Australian Defence Force personnel.

The AMA was not consulted by MHS or the Department of Defence on these new arrangements or the Schedule of Fees.

The AMA would advise all doctors who are considering this offer to:

  1. seek independent legal advice;
  2. consult your medical indemnity insurer; and
  3. carefully consider the impact of the new fees in light of your practice costs.

Goodwill, Vision and Funding Needed to Solve Intern Crisis

Dr Hambleton has acknowledged the leadership of the Minister for Health in talks with the States and Territories over funding all 2013 intern places for locally trained medical graduates.

The AMA initially held some concerns that the Commonwealth’s offer to the states and territories to fund 100 of the 180 required new places to meet the projected shortfall in intern places for 2013 would divert much needed funding from the Prevocational GP Placements Program (PGPPP). However, the Minister’s office has since been able to confirm that only unused funds from the PGPPP would be used.

Dr Hambleton said there is a lack of goodwill and vision from some governments, and little concern about the future career prospects of a significant number of Australian trained medical graduates. The AMA has urged health ministers to reach an agreement to fund the required extra places when they meet next Tuesday.

Changes to RAP Prior Approval Arrangements

The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) has recently improved Prior Approval (PA) arrangements for a range of items on the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) National Schedule of Equipment. The changes have simplified and streamlined administrative arrangements, which, in turn, will reduce red tape for both health providers and veterans. DVA is also improving its support for health providers. Provider information and education programs are being strengthened, and post payment and compliance monitoring processes are also being improved.

From September 2012, assessing health providers no longer need to seek prior approval for 19 items listed on the Schedule. Health providers can now send requests for these items directly to DVA’s contracted suppliers. Assessing health providers also no longer need to seek prior approval for 45 items listed on the Schedule if the quantity limits have been exceeded. In addition, for a wide range of items on the Schedule, DVA has removed references to recommended quantity limits in the ‘Comments’ field of the Schedule.

The Schedule is continuing to be reviewed so there may be more changes to prior approval arrangements in coming months. The RAP Schedule, Guidelines and Forms have also been revised to reflect the PA changes and there are no changes to entitlements and clinically assessed need criteria.

For more information about the changes visit:

Submission: Draft Social Media Policy

The AMA has recently submitted a response to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) National Boards preliminary consultation on its draft Social Media policy.

The submission, while generally supportive of the development of policy in this area, has highlighted a number of areas where the draft policy could better encourage the responsible and enjoyable use of social media.

Click here to read more about the submission or to download the AMA submission or the Social Media and the Medical Profession: A guide to online professionalism for medical practitioners and medical students’.

Volunteers Wanted for Government Research

The Department of Health and Ageing is conducting research to improve the introduction of PBS claiming from a medication chart in residential aged care facilities. The AMA supports this initiative as an effective way to reduce red tape by allowing medical practitioners to sign-off on appropriately designed medication charts rather than a large number of PBS prescriptions.

If you are a general practitioner providing services in residential aged care facilities, the Department is seeking volunteers to be interviewed as part of its research. Interviews will be by phone and last up to half an hour. Any information that you provide as part of this project will be confidential and used for research purposes only. The findings will be used to better implement the initiative and understand the potential impacts of its introduction from clinician, process, patient care and Quality Use of Medicines perspectives.

Urbis Pty Ltd is undertaking the research on behalf of the Department. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Dr Linda Kurti over the next week on 02 8233 9947 or by email at

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

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In this issue

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