GP Network News, Issue 12 Number 46

23 Nov 2012

More hearings in ANF Pay Claim

Hearings before Fair Work Australia with respect to the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) application for a low paid bargaining authorisation for practice nurses recommenced on Monday this week, with the AMA leading its witness evidence in opposition to the ANF pay claim.

The ANF had largely completed its evidence during hearings held in September and has put the position that practice nurses have similar responsibilities and exercise similar skill sets to nurses working in public hospitals. The ANF is seeking for public sector conditions to be translated to private practices.

The AMA case ran for most of this week, with eighteen witnesses having been organised to appear including GPs and practice managers. The AMA had previously led expert witness evidence during the September hearings.

Final hearing dates were scheduled for 13 – 14 December, however, it now appears that the case will run into next year. The latter dates have not yet been set.


BEACH Refutes Criticism of GPs

Recent media reports criticising GPs for inappropriately prescribing inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) to treat upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) have been refuted by the University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre (FMRC) in its latest Bytes from BEACH article, titled Antibiotic and ICS co-prescribing—an inference too far!  Bytes from BEACH provide brief insights into interesting results about general practice collected from the FMRC’s BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) Program.

In this latest Byte, the FMRC expresses concern with the problematic inferences made by the authors of a report that was recently released by the AIHW. The report, by the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (ACAM), used PBS data to infer that GPs were co-prescribing antibiotics and inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) for respiratory tract infections (RTI) in patients who had neither asthma nor COPD.

Earlier this year, the FMRC prepared two Bytes based on the problems associated with the use of PBS data to measure quality of GP prescribing by inferring the diagnosis from the antibiotic prescribed. In those Bytes FRMC criticised the Productivity Commission’s use of PBS data to measure quality of GP prescribing and to infer over-prescribing of antibiotics for URTIs. These reports are also available on the website

Better Access Initiative – Transition arrangements ceasing

GPs are reminded that the transition arrangements for the allied mental health services available under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative will end on 31 December 2012.

From 1 January 2013, in accordance with the Health Insurance (Allied Health Services) Determination 2011, Medicare rebates for eligible people with a diagnosed mental disorder under the Better Access initiative will be for 10 individual allied mental health services per calendar year.

From 1 January 2013, provisions for ‘exceptional circumstances’ will no longer apply. Individuals currently eligible for ‘exceptional circumstances in the 2012 year must access their additional services before 31 December 2012. From 1 January allied mental health services accessed by eligible individuals will be counted towards their 10 services for the 2013 calendar year.

Eligible individuals following the initial course of treatment (a maximum of six services) will be able, on review, to access up to an additional four services per calendar year. Individuals will also be able to receive Medicare rebates for 10 group therapy services per calendar year, on top of their individual services.

The Department of Health and Ageing has prepared fact sheets on Better Access and they are available at

DVA Videos promote mental health awareness

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has produced a new series of online videos to bring more awareness of the mental health issues faced by some of our current and ex-serving members of the Defence Force, following active service. The videos offer an insight into the experiences of veterans and current sailors, soldiers, airmen and women, and their families post deployment. The videos highlight that there are others with similar experiences, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, that help is available, and it can make a difference.

The videos are available for viewing online at the DVA YouTube channel at or via the DVA Facebook page

DVA CVC training - misconceptions clarified

The AMA has recently clarified with the DVA that it is not compulsory for GPs, practice nurses, community nurses or Aboriginal health workers to undergo training in order to participate in the DVA’s Coordinated Veterans’ Care (CVC) Program. While the DVA has provided training modules aimed at assisting members of the care team to understand the basic requirements and their roles within program completing the modules is not a requirement of participation in the CVC Program. The DVA nevertheless does encourage the completion of at least Module 1 - "CVC - Is your service ready?" to ensure a sound understanding of the CVC Program.

More information on the CVC Program is available at: and on the training modules at

Reminder on Closing the Gap Prescription Co-payments

GPs are reminded of the Closing the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Co-payment Measure, which enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of any age who present with an existing chronic disease or are at risk of chronic disease, to pay lower, or no, co-payments for PBS medicines.

Eligible patients must be registered at either general practices participating in the Indigenous Health Incentive under the Practice Incentives Program (PIP) or Indigenous Health Services (IHS) in urban and rural settings.

To provide access to the benefit, GPs need to write ‘CTG’ on the patient’s prescription, to indicate that it is to be dispensed with co-payment relief. General (non-concessional) patients presenting a ‘CTG’ prescription will then be charged the concessional rate of $5.80. Concessional patients presenting a ‘CTG’ prescription will not need to pay at all.  However, mandatory charges such as any applicable brand premiums must still be paid by the patient.

More information can be obtained from:

Join the fight against antibiotic resistance

The National Prescribing Service (NPS), to coincide with antibiotic awareness week, has produced a new video highlighting the importance of appropriate antibiotic use. GPs may be interested to view the 3-4 minute video. It may be something you would like to share with your patients, family and friends. Help spread the word to combat antibiotic resistance.

The video can be viewed at

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


AMA members can enter a competition to win one of 5 x $1000 credit which will be awarded in time for Christmas - a great incentive for AMA members to renew promptly with their AMA American Express cards by 14 December.

Prizes shall be awarded to 5 lucky AMA members who have used an AMA American Express card to pay for their monthly, quarterly or annual membership fees. Prizes will be drawn on the 19th December so that the prize winners can spend their $1000 on Christmas related items if they choose. Good luck!

Conditions apply

 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