GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 44

7 Nov 2013

Dr Steve Hambleton, AMA President

AMA applauds decision to scrap the cap

The AMA has hailed the Coalition Government’s decision to scrap the former Government’s proposed $2000 cap on tax deductions for work-related self-education expenses as a victory for common sense.

The AMA, along with the Scrap the Cap Alliance, has been lobbying hard to get the proposed cap abolished since former Treasurer Wayne Swan announced the ill-informed reform in April.

The proposed cap was a poor policy that would have undermined medical education and training and made it increasingly difficult for doctors to provide quality health care.

“The Coalition Government has clearly listened to our concerns. The decision to scrap the cap will ensure that Australian communities continue to receive world-best practice in the quality of care they receive,” AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton said.

The AMA was a founding member of the Scrap the Cap Alliance, which has more than 70 member organisations covering more than 1.6 million professionals including universities, nurses, engineers, accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, allied health professionals and small business operators.

In an email to members, Dr Hambleton highlighted that the profession had made an enormous contribution to this campaign through participation in surveys, letters and countless emails to members of Parliament. This was critical to the AMA’s success in having the measure overturned.

He thanked members for their support in this critical campaign, which has once again demonstrated the importance of the AMA as a powerful advocacy voice for the profession.

Full media release.

Federal Government to review electronic health records

Federal Health Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton, this week announced a review of Australia’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records program.

The Review will be chaired by Richard Royle, Executive Director of the UnitingCare Health group in Queensland. He will be assisted in the Review by AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton and Chief Information Officer of Australia Post, Andrew Walduck.

The Review panel will invite submissions from the public along with key stakeholder groups including peak clinical bodies. It will report back to Minister Dutton by mid-December 2013.

Listen to Dr Hambleton discuss the review on ABC Radio National, 4 November 2013.

Medicare requirements for referrals to specialists and consultant physicians

The AMA has prepared a useful summary for GPs that explains the Medicare benefits rules for referrals and the implications of not adhering to them.

View the summary information on the AMA website.

Clinical guidance for MRI referral

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has released its Clinical guidance for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) referral to support the Department of Health’s new MBS-supported referrals for MRI requested by general practitioners, that came into effect last Friday 1 November.

GPs will now be able to request MRI studies of:

  • The head - unexplained seizure(s) or unexplained chronic headache with suspected intracranial pathology;
  • The spine (two separate items) - suspected cervical radiculopathy or suspected cervical spine trauma; and
  • The knee - following acute knee trauma where there is an inability to extend the knee suggesting an acute meniscal tear or clinical findings suggest the acute anterior cruciate ligament tear.

The clinical guidance, commissioned by the DoH, aims to support GPs’ evidence-based decision making, reduce inappropriate referral and improve patient outcomes for the specific Medicare indications.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the AMA would like to see more GP referred MRI items rolled out, including for lower back pain, and the AMA will continue to lobby the Government to expand access beyond those conditions listed above.

GPs and other health professionals can access the Clinical guidance for MRI referral free of charge via the RACGP website. The clinical guidance is also accessible via the AMA GP Desktop Practice Support Toolkit.

A GPs work is never done

AMA Council of General Practice Chair, Dr Brian Morton, in this week’s issue of Australian Medicine, talks about the often underestimated and undervalued element of general practice – non-contact care. He also discusses the opportunity cost of red tape and urges GPs to consider all that is involved in providing quality patient care and valuing that work appropriately, when setting their fees.

Dr Morton’s article in Australian Medicine.

Australian Medicine articles of interest

This week in Australian Medicine Dr Hambleton discusses the new additions to the PBS, the re-pricing process when generics are introduced into the market, and phone authority prescriptions. Australian Medicine also looks at the fallout from a television show stunt on sickies; the medical training crisis; what doctors should do when disaster strikes; the outlook for aged care under the new government; and the risks of medical tourism.

More than 40 news stories, opinion pieces, analysis and comment on health issues can be read in Australian Medicine.

MJA focuses on Cancer

Australians are now developing cancer at slightly higher rates but dying of the disease less often, according to national cancer trends published in this week's Medical Journal of Australia. Professor Bruce Armstrong of the Sax Institute, Sydney, discusses the trends in an editorial and highlights the need for greater efforts towards primary prevention.

A study led by Dr Michael Coory shows that cancer patients in rural and remote Australian communities continue to be at increased risk of death compared with their urban-dwelling counterparts, despite decreases in the number of cancer deaths overall, sparking calls for more investment in health-systems policy.

Read these articles and many more in Medical Journal of Australia, 4 November 2013.

AMA List of Medical Services and Fees - 1 November 2013

The AMA List of Medical Services and Fees (AMA List), effective 1 November 2013, has been distributed.

To access this part of the website simply log in and follow these steps:

  1. Once you have entered your login details, hover over Resources at the top of the page.
  2. A drop down box will appear, select AMA Fees List.
  3. Then select 1. AMA List of Medical Services and Fees - 1 November 2013.
  4. You can then download the CSV (for importing into practice software) and PDF (for viewing) of the AMA List.

The Fees Indexation Calculator is also available for members to calculate their own fee increase based on their individual cost profile.

The AMA Fees List Online enables members to view, print or download individual items or groups of items to suit their needs.

AMA members can also access the AMA List of Medical Services and Fees and other relevant tools via the GP Desktop Practice Support Toolkit.

MERS Coronavirus Update - 31 October 2013

As of 29 October 2013, 145 laboratory-confirmed cases had been reported by the WHO world-wide since the first cases were reported in September 2012. Sixty two cases have died, and the case fatality rate is 43%. At least 56% of confirmed cases had underlying conditions (in some cases multiple underlying conditions) that may have made them more susceptible. More information is available on the Department of Health website.

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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