GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 7

22 Feb 2013

AMA Welcomes ACCC Decision on GP fees

The AMA has welcomed the final decision from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on GP fee setting, which will come into effect on 15 March.

The ACCC has agreed to an application for authorisation made by the AMA to allow GPs working in the same practice (as defined) to agree on the fees charged to patients attending that practice. The decision will also permit GPs working in the same practice to negotiate collectively with hospitals and Medicare Locals on fees.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said the AMA took a leadership role on behalf of the profession in making this application to the ACCC.

“We want to ensure that GPs who engage in this type of conduct are not exposed to action under competition laws,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The decision will remove this uncertainty.”

Click here for the full media release and to view the final determination.

AMA Council of General Practice meets this weekend

The AMA Council of General Practice (AMACGP), which is made up of key GP opinion leaders from across the country, is meeting in Canberra this weekend.

AMACGP Chair, Dr Brian Morton, said this meeting is particularly important as a number of key issues for general practice will be discussed, including:

  • The Government’s review of Chronic Disease items;
  • The concept of the ‘medical home’;
  • Key issues in the Federal election;
  • Improving GP and hospital integration;
  • Barriers to teaching in general practice;
  • Improving support for International Medical Graduates;
  • Finding efficiencies in general practice;
  • The AMA’s response to the government’s evaluation of the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program; and
  • A Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) update.

Looking after the mental health of Doctors

The AMA this week welcomed the launch of the beyondblue National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students.

AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, commended the initiative and encouraged all Australian doctors and medical students to participate in this world first survey. The AMA has long played a leadership role in raising awareness among doctors and medical students about the need to look after their own health and wellbeing, and strongly supports the survey.

Click here for more.

New Hepatitis C treatments now on PBS

Among the list of new and extended subsidies granted through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), announced by the Minister for Health this week, are two groundbreaking new treatments for chronic hepatitis C, one of the most commonly reported notifiable diseases in Australia.

The government will provide more than $220 million over five years to subsidise boceprevir (Victrelis) and telaprevir (Incivo), for people aged 18 and over with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C. It is estimated that these medicines could double the cure rate and shorten the treatment time by six months. It was estimated in 2011 that at least 220,000 people were living with chronic hepatitis C. Without the PBS subsidy patients would have to pay up to $78,000 per year for these medicines.

In addition to the new medicines for hepatitis C, the government has also listed an oral contraceptive, and treatments for Parkinson disease, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. It has also extended the PBS listing for an osteoporosis treatment and increased the price of nine other medicines for conditions including high blood pressure and inflammatory bowel disease.

Need to better educate parents about adverse vaccine reactions

GPs are reminded to ensure that parents getting their child immunised are advised about vaccine safety after a recent study by Adriana Parrella et al, of the University of Adelaide, showed that many parents have difficulty differentiating an expected event from an adverse event.

The study interviewed 469 parents and found that 95% were confident in vaccine safety in general, but almost half expressed concern for pre-licensure testing of vaccines. One in four did not think Australia had a method of monitoring vaccine safety.

“All parents of vaccinated children in South Australia are meant to be provided with vaccine safety information at the time of immunisation which outlines how vaccine safety is monitored and how to report adverse events… (But) our findings would indicate that either parents are not being provided with this information or that it is not easily recalled,” authors said.

Click here to view the study abstract.

Click here for information on vaccine safety.

Bulk billing doesn’t pay

Another GP Super Clinic will cease to universally bulk bill from 1 March, as it has become financially unviable for doctors to continue to do so. Practice principal of Devonport GP Super Clinic, Dr Calin Pava, said that it was not possible to deliver a quality service with bulk billing for all patients without an increase in MBS rebates.

The Government’s GP Super Clinics Program, which commenced in 2007-08, allocated $650 million to support the establishment of 64 clinics across the country. Applicants for tenders to operate GP super clinics were told they would be favoured if they could ‘prioritise a significant amount of bulk billing’.

However, an evaluation of the program conducted last year by Consan Consulting Group for the Department of Health and Ageing found that universal bulk billing ‘impacted on the capacity of the GP Super Clinics to remain financially viable’. It also stated that bulk billing for all patients for MBS items was only available in one of the GP Super Clinics involved in the evaluation. This clinic allocated appointments at ten-minute intervals to achieve the volume required to ensure viability. It also had a focus on medical assessment and clinical treatment advice, leaving other aspects of patient management to other disciplines. This potentially has implications for the quality and continuity of patient care.

The AMA has been vocal in its criticism of GP Super Clinics arguing the money could have been better spent supporting existing general practice infrastructure. If a clinic with significantly subsidised infrastructure is unable to make ends meet, it is clear that the Medicare rebate does not reflect the cost of delivering care. 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 at

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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