GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 28

19 Jul 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

AMA releases health policy platform for the 2013 federal election

This week the AMA released Key Health Issues for the Federal Election 2013, a summary of the important health issues that the AMA considers must be addressed by the major parties during the election campaign and into the next term of Government, whichever party wins.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the AMA's health policies are practical, achievable, and affordable.

"Health reform must be resuscitated urgently or Australians will find it more and more difficult to get access to quality affordable health care, where and when they need it," Dr Hambleton said.

Key GP health issues for the 2013 federal election cover: Healthier Australian Families; Affordable Medical Services; Self-Education Expense Cap; Medical Workforce and Training; Medical Care for Dementia, Palliative, and Aged Care Patients; Tackling Chronic Disease; GP Infrastructure; Rural Health; e-Health; and PBS Authority Prescriptions.

Dr Hambleton's address to the National Press Club.

Key Health Issues for the Federal Election 2013 is available on the AMA website.

Full media release.

AMA Family Doctor Week 15-21 July 2013

This week the AMA has been celebrating Family Doctor Week 2013, a recognition of the hard work and dedication of the nation's family doctors - the GPs who serve local communities in the cities, the suburbs, rural centres, country towns, and remote areas of Australia.

Each day this week, the AMA has been highlighting the issues that affect family doctors and urging governments to provide greater support to allow them to continue serving their communities.

As part of Family Doctor Week, the AMA has released two videos showcasing some of the difficulties family doctors encounter on a daily basis when caring for their patents, including keeping skills and knowledge up to date, training future family doctors, caring for older patients and dealing with red tape. The videos can be found on the AMA Family Doctor Week 2013 web page.

The Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, acknowledged Family Doctor Week by thanking Australia's family doctors for their vital contribution to the good health of the nation, saying they were the backbone of Australia's world-class universal health system.

AMA Family Doctor Week is sponsored by Australian General Practice Training.

AMA Urges Government to scrap the cap and Treasury to take the rap

The AMA this week released its response to the Treasury Discussion Paper, Reform to deductions for education expenses. The AMA has warned that it will be much harder for family doctors to maintain world best practice in the quality of patient care unless the Government reverses its decision to cap tax deductions for work-related self-education expenses at $2000 from 1 July 2014.

Dr Hambleton said that Treasury Discussion Paper shows a total lack of understanding of the reality of professional self-education. Treasury has not conducted a sector-by-sector analysis of the possible impact of the proposed reform across the professions, nor has it provided any credible quantification for setting the cap at $2,000.

Dr Hambleton said that the Government has claimed – based on the Treasury advice – that the $2,000 cap would not deter doctors from pursuing legitimate work-related self-education to improve their medical skills and knowledge. Surveys of our members prove this claim wrong, Dr Hambleton said.

"More than 9,000 doctors responded to our three surveys, with one survey reporting that 92 per cent of doctors incur self-education expenses above the $2,000 amount. The average doctor in our surveys spends $12,637 each year on work-related self-education activities, which is more than six times the proposed cap.

"Treasury has given the Government very bad advice", Dr Hambleton said.

The cap will potentially restrain the ability of GPs to improve their medical knowledge and skills. Family doctors spend the amount of the cap multiple times over every year. If the cap is not reversed, it will inevitably lead to increased costs for patients and the health system, Dr Hambleton said.

Join the campaign to fight the $2000 cap on self-education at #ScrapTheCap. Its quick and easy to do - over 18,300 signatures and counting.

View the two releases on this issue:

AMA urges Government to scrap the cap

Treasury must take the rap for the cap

View the AMA response to Treasury.

AMA calls for proper indexation of Medicare patient rebates

In an AMA media release earlier this week, Dr Hambleton said that proper and realistic indexation of Medicare rebates was urgently needed.

"Years of inadequate Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) indexation, along with the recent freeze on MBS indexation, means the Government is simply shifting costs to patients," Dr Hambleton said. He added that because Government indexation does not take proper account of the increases in inflation and average weekly earnings, MBS fees have been devalued by 40 per cent since 1986.

"This inadequate indexation over the life of Medicare has resulted in patient out-of-pocket gap payments increasing by 11.7 per cent per annum," Dr Hambleton said.

The AMA encourages medical practitioners to determine their own fees based on their own practice costs. To guide medical practitioners in determining their fees and to assist those considering moving from bulk billing to patient billing, the AMA provides members with tools and resources, which are available online.

There is a checklist for those medical practitioners who have decided to move from bulk billing to patient billing and a template letter to explain to their patients why their fee is different to the Medicare rebate.

The AMA Gaps Poster illustrates why patients might have to pay a gap. The poster shows the effect of the difference between the indexation of Medicare Schedule fees and the Consumer Price Index and average weekly earnings. It is available for download as a PDF.

View the full media release.

Axe the PBS authority system

Rules forcing doctors to get permission from public servants before prescribing medicines is outdated and needs to be scrapped. Dr Hambleton said, Government red tape was a huge burden on family doctors and medical practices, particularly the PBS authority system.

A survey conducted by the AMA recently found that 17 per cent of family doctors seeking permission to prescribe certain medicines reported spending 10 minutes or more a day waiting for calls to be answered by Department of Human Services bureaucrats. The AMA has been pushing for years for the scheme to be scaled down and eventually removed.

The Productivity Commission has identified the PBS authority system as an unnecessary burden for GPs and has recommended it be removed. The time doctors waste getting authority to prescribe medications equates to more than 25,000 consultations every month, Dr Hambleton said.

View the full media release.

GP Training Placements must be increased

In a call to Federal Government to boost GP training places, Dr Hambleton has said long term vision and planning is needed to ensure Australia has enough GPs, now and in the future. The AMA urges the Government to increase the intake of both the GP training program and the Prevocational General Practice Placement Program to 1500 places by 2016 and 1700 a year by 2019.

In addition, the AMA has called for the Practice Incentive Payment for teaching medical students to increase to $200 per teaching session. This would better reflect the cost for GPs of teaching medical students.

View the full media release.

Professor Fiona Wood to open 2013 GPET Convention

The annual General Practice Education and Training Limited (GPET) Convention will be held this year 11-12 September at the Crown, Perth. The theme for this year is ‘mining for gold in general practice education' and will be opened by Professor Fiona Wood, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon who will explore what it means for medical education.

The Convention program offers over 70 sessions with more than 100 papers and workshops over the two days available for participants who are passionate about general practice education and training. Presenters include: medical students, registrars, medical educators, GP supervisors and regional training provider staff.

Ms Penny Neuendorf, Education Manager from the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), will present the secondary theme of e-health on Thursday 12 September. Penny led a COAG- funded project in augmented reality in a vocational education environment, entitled ‘Virtual Worlds in Health Education'.

The closing plenary on 12 September will bring together the themes of eTraining and eHealth with a panel of speakers, including Dr Chris Mitchell, Clinical Leader of NEHTA and Dr Louise Stone, GPET's Medical Adviser.

To read more about the Convention keynotes or to download the updated Convention Program visit the Convention site.

Follow the official GPET Convention Twitter account @GPETConvention and join the conversation at #GPET13.

New Edition of Australian Medicine available now

Articles of particular interest to GP's in the 15 July edition of Australian Medicine include the latest developments in the fight to have the Federal Government's $2000 cap on tax deductions for work-related self-education expenses ditched, the increasing election focus on primary care, Dr Brian Morton's views on ensuring a general practice workforce, low child vaccination rates, the PCEHR falling short of its start-up target, as well as comprehensive coverage of other medical news, views and analysis in your Australian Medicine – available online.

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus

The Department issues a weekly situation update on MERS coronavirus based on information from the WHO and other published sources. Despite the confirmation of two new cases overseas the MERS coronavirus is considered unlikely to cause a pandemic at present. The latest update is available here.


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AMA members can hire one of these impressive vehicles for 3 days or more and receive a 15% discount off the best available rate. That’s on top of all the usual benefits you’d expect with your Hertz rental, including free membership to the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Program. To book go to and quote CDP Number 283826 and Promotion Code 190982, or call Hertz Reservations on 13 30 39.

*Terms and conditions apply. Offer available at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth metro locations. Minimum rental period of 3 consecutive days applies. Hertz standard terms, conditions and credit qualifications apply.


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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