GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 24

21 Jun 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

Fair decision from fair work commission

The AMA has welcomed this week’s decision by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to reject the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) claim for a low paid bargaining authorisation for practice nurses working in medical practices.

Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, Dr Brian Morton, said that the Federal AMA, along with AMA Victoria and AMA Tasmania, opposed this claim before the FWC, arguing that practice nurses are not low paid and that they already bargain extensively with employers at the local level.

Dr Morton said that the AMA argued that the ANF claim had the potential to drive up costs for practices by centralising the negotiation of wages and conditions.

“The AMA presented extensive witness evidence and supporting submissions to the Commission in support of our case,” Dr Morton said.

“In rejecting the ANF application, the FWC concluded that most practice nurses were not low paid and that the case for the authorisation was not strong.

“It found several important factors indicated that multi-employer bargaining may be undesirable or less appropriate than genuine enterprise-based bargaining and, on that basis, it was not in the public interest to make the authorisation.”

The ANF application covered 682 medical practices, most in Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales.

Work related self education expenses – new survey

The Government wants to take an axe to medical education, and the Coalition is going to sit back and let them do it, the AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton has told members in an email asking members to complete a survey and make representations to their local member.

The decision to put a $2000 a year cap on the tax deductibility of work related self education expenses for genuine professional development is bad policy – it is anti-education, it is anti-quality health care, and it stifles excellence. It must be reversed.

The Government has said it does not want to harm legitimate education but the Treasury Discussion paper provides no proof of this, as it does not distinguish between legitimate and non-legitimate expenditure.

The $2000 cap will apply to tuition fees, registration fees, textbooks and journals, computers, student union fees, accommodation, running expenses, and travel. If membership of a professional association includes an educational component, and many do, this cost will also be included in the cap.

The reform is worse – far worse – than we originally thought. It will take no time at all for doctors and other professional to reach the $2000 cap.

Dr Hambleton said we must put our case, and put it strongly and factually – based on real-life experience. It is your stories, your experiences, and your quest for greater skills and knowledge to help your patients that will provide the evidence we need to turn this decision around. The AMA needs to tell your stories to the politicians in Canberra, just as some of you have already been telling your politicians at the local level.

The AMA’s first member survey on this matter drew more than 4,500 responses. A more detailed survey questionnaire has now been prepared and we are very hopeful we can get an even bigger response. Please complete the survey before 27 June 2013. It is important that we are able to analyse the results and include them in our submission to Treasury, which is due on 12 July 2013.

As part of our political campaign, we have developed a campaign website at Members going to this website will be able to email the Federal Politician of their choice using the facilities on the website.

After you have filled out the AMA survey and you know how much you have spent, go to the doctors4health site and tell your local representative what you are spending and how the cap will affect your practice and your patients.

All politicians of all persuasions need to hear your stories, and they need to feel your anger. The strength of our membership can and will make a difference.

Improved Contract for GP After Hours Care

The AMA has urged Medicare Locals nationwide to use an improved contract for GPs to provide after hours care after serious flaws in contracts originally prepared by individual Medical Locals met with strong resistance from the AMA and GPs.

The Australian Medicare Local Alliance (AMLA) has issued a revised template contract to Medicare Locals that they can use for GP after hours services after the AMA successfully lobbied the Department of Health and Ageing to change contracting guidelines for Medicare Locals.

The change follows widespread concern that some Medicare Locals were trying to impose overly onerous contract conditions that would have added significantly to the costs and administrative burden on GP practices.

AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb urged Medicare Locals nationwide to quickly adopt the new contract template, and advised general practitioners to be wary of signing any contract for after hours services that sought to impose more onerous conditions than offered by the template document.

Read the full media release.

Ministers get ‘Gold Star’ for food labelling decision

The AMA congratulates Australia’s Food and Health Ministers on their recent decision to introduce the Health Star Rating system for packaged food. Professor Dobb said the decision is a major win for public health in this country.

The system will make it easier for people to make informed choices about healthy foods by giving products a ranking that ranges from half a star to five stars, with five stars being the healthiest option. Products will be rated on factors including their kilojoule, saturated fat, sugar and sodium content.

The star system is being introduced as a voluntary system for adoption by the food industry, with the possibility of a mandatory approach if the voluntary implementation is considered unsatisfactory after two years.

View the full press release here.

Have PBS Authority phone line waiting times improved?

Please let us know about your current experiences with the PBS Authority phone line by completing the AMA's online poll.

The AMA has been a constant advocate for reducing unnecessary red tape for doctors.

Last year, there was a flood of complaints from AMA members about frustrations with the PBS authority prescription process, in particular, longs delays waiting for their call to be answered so that a clerk can give the tick of approval.

The AMA conducted intense lobbying of the Minister for Human Services and his Department urging proper staffing of the authority phone line to reduce waiting times.

The AMA has also been working to reduce the number of medicines that still require an authority before they can be prescribed.

By completing the online poll you will help the AMA measure whether the phone line waiting times have at least improved.

Seeking GP views on prostate cancer screening techniques

The University of Sydney’s School of Public Health is looking for about 40 urban GPs and 20 rural GPs to interview about prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing experiences and their current practice regarding screening patients for prostate cancer. The interviews are part of a larger study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, that aims to develop more practical tools to support cancer screening decision-making.

"Because GPs make most of the PSA testing decisions in Australia, we are focusing our study of PSA testing on decision-making in General Practice," study lead, Kristen Pickles, said. “The interview will be an opportunity to talk about your own experience of PSA testing in general practice and what you think about cancer screening policy and/or practice more broadly.”

Participants will be reimbursed for their time and interviews will last between 30 and 60 minutes. The researchers will remove any details that could potentially identify GPs.

For more information contact Kristen Pickles on or call 0407 039 776.

AMA Family Doctor Week - 15-21 July 2013

Each year the AMA celebrates Family Doctor Week (FDW). The aim of the FDW is to remind the community how important it is to have a family doctor. It is also a week where the AMA celebrates and honours the important work that GPs do each and every day of the year for their patients and the community.

This year's theme is Your Family Doctor: Your Medical Home. Family doctors/GPs are trained to care for people of all ages, from all walks of life, and with a variety of medical issues. The theme aims to cement the safety and security people feel in the care of their trusted family doctor and their medical home.

As part of Family Doctor Week, that AMA has developed two posters that you are encouraged to download, print and display in your rooms to help promote the important role of the family doctor and to inform patients about how their Medicare rebates are being devalued.

To download the posters, and for more information about Family Doctor Week 2013 and its events, visit the AMA’s Family Doctor Week landing page.

AMA advice following anti vax bullying tactics

The AMA has posted advice on its website to help GPs to understand their rights and obligations when requested to sign a conscientious objector form for parents who choose not to vaccinate their child.

This follows on from a well known anti-vaccination advocate advising her followers to refuse to pay for GP consults if the GP will not sign the vaccination conscientious objector form.

Read the AMA's advice online.

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

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