GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 43

1 Nov 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

GP MRI Items for adults - from 1 November 2013

After extensive advocacy from the AMA, today sees the introduction of four new MBS items for GP referred MRI items for patients 16 years and over. These items follow on from the introduction last year of GP referred MRI items for patients under 16 years of age. The new items will cover scans for:

  • The head - unexplained seizure(s) or unexplained chronic headache with suspected intracranial pathology;
  • The spine (2 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.

Fact sheet on the new MRI items

AMACGP Executive at last weekend's meeting in Canberra

AMA Council of General Practice meets on key GP issues

The AMA Council of General Practice (AMACGP), which is made up of key GP opinion leaders from across the country, met in Canberra last weekend to discuss a range of current and emerging general practice issues.

AMACGP Chair, Dr Brian Morton, said the meeting progressed the Council's work in a number of key areas. The Council considered the increasing presence of private health insurers in primary care and the role of GPs in these programs; possible models for integrating pharmacists into the GP-led general practice multidisciplinary team, and effective hospital/GP transfer of care arrangements. The reform of chronic disease items was also discussed, with AMACGP keen to press the Government for real progress in this area, focusing on less red tape and support for quality care.

AMA talks with Health Minister

The health plans of the new Federal Government are beginning to take shape, and the AMA has had the first of what we hope will be many fruitful discussions with incoming Health Minister Peter Dutton. The latest edition of Australian Medicine details what took place in our initial talks, including a hint that the odious authority prescription system is in for close examination.

The magazine also examines an issue your AMA takes very seriously - the health and wellbeing of practitioners. Too often doctors put the health of everyone else first, and Australian Medicine looks at the often hidden mental health scourge affecting many in the profession. There is also news on:

  • the work of GP Dr Chris Moy, one of the AMA members striving to get the troubled Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system back on track and turn it into something useful for both doctors and their patients;
  • how Medicare is lagging further behind amid the rising cost of providing health care; and
  • advances in the development of the world's first malaria vaccine that could be available within 18 months.

Many more news stories, opinions pieces, analysis and comment on health issues can be read in Australian Medicine.

Image by RubyGoes on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

GPs supporting the community in times of emergency

Through its advocacy of Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments the AMA continues to ensure that GPs are more actively involved in the planning for, and management of, natural disasters and other emergencies.

The AMA participates in the GP Roundtable which informs the Australian Government on issues such as the response to the H1N1 pandemic and has recently been broadened (in line with AMA advocacy) to cover disaster preparedness in primary care. The AMA is also a member of the Government's Trusted Information Sharing Network for Critical Infrastructure Resilience and has a GP representative on its Health Sector Group.

The AMA position statement Involvement of GPs in Disaster and Emergency Planning - 2012 was developed to help policy makers at all levels of government consider more strategically the role of the GP in disasters and emergencies. This includes making provisions for representation by GPs on appropriate committees and planning for how GPs can be coordinated and assisted in their efforts to provide medical care when an emergency or disaster strikes.

It is also important for individual GPs and practices to have an emergency response plan. With the commencement of the Australian summer, and given the severe bushfires already experienced in NSW, GPs are encouraged to develop or review their emergency response plans.

Are your patients knowledgeable about their medications?

The National Prescribing Service (NPS) is urging people to check the instructions for all their medicines and make sure they are taking them the right way. This concern was highlighted during NPS's recent Be Medicinewise Week, when a survey of 796 older Australians or their carers, commissioned by the NPS, showed that around one in four older people have problems remembering to take some of their medicines and one in three people don't always read the labels on their medicines.

According to the NPS around 1 in 3 unplanned hospital admissions involving older Australians are due to problems with medicines, but half of these could be prevented. The NPS said 43 percent of people aged over 50 take five or more medicines a day, but only 55 percent of people surveyed keep a list of their medicines, and of those who don't, 30 percent have no way of keeping track of what they take.

NPS suggests that GPs talk with their patients to explain the active ingredient in their medicines and to encourage them to ask questions and make a medicines list.

NPS MedicineWise offers practical help in preparing a Medicines List, whether it be a paper list, an elist, or a medicines list app for iPhone.

New medicines now available through the PBS

This week fifty new and amended medicines were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The new listings include a new treatment for melanoma, dabrafenib, sold as Rafinlar. A new MBS item will also be listed for the genetic testing that is necessary to determine eligibility for dabrafenib.

A new medicine to treat pancreatic cancer, sunitinib (Sutent), has also been approved. Sunitinib increases the survival rates of patients who cannot undergo surgery. Denosumab, which is currently available through the PBS for the treatment of osteoporosis in women, will now be extended to men.

Full list of all of the approved medicines on the PBS website

What's new in the latest Medical Journal of Australia?

Discussions about the health cost of adding GST to fruits and vegetables and other food follies; understanding the health needs of Australia's servicewomen and female veterans; global trends in testosterone prescribing; measuring exposure to and impacts of trauma after Queensland's natural disasters of 2010-2011; preventing mental disorders; and much more. MJA has also produced a special supplement issue focused on sleep disorders: a practical guide for Australian health care practitioners.

Medical Journal of Australia.

AMA List of Medical Services and Fees - 1 November 2013

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

To access the List on the AMA 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, where members can view, print or download individual items or groups of items to suit their needs, has been updated as of today.

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

HWA conference - medical reform

Workforce innovation, evolving clinical training arrangements and digital technologies ensuring patient care is delivered in the most efficient ways possible will all be examined at Health Workforce Australia’s national conference in Adelaide in November.

Ben Wallace, Executive Director, Clinical Training Reform with Health Workforce Australia will discuss how training efforts nationally and locally can be better coordinated, from professional entry through to specialist training. This includes initiatives such as the development of an advisory board to ensure there is a planned approach to medical training.

The session will also examine future directions in the use of simulation in health profession education. 

Sarah Dods from CSIRO will give delegates a first-hand view of the Patient Admission and Prediction Tool (PAPT) which aims to reduce public hospital waiting times and identify bottlenecks. It uses historical data to provide an accurate prediction of the expected patient load as well as their medical urgency and specialty, admissions and discharges. 

This project has already reported an improved service efficiency of $1 million. Based on these results, the projected direct productivity gain for Queensland is $3 million per year and $23 million per year across Australia.

More than 50 local and international speakers will explore the latest ideas on leadership, innovation and workforce reform at the event at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 18 to 20 November.

Registrations are now open. Concession tickets cost $350 and full price tickets cost $600. To attend the conference, or to find out more visit


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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