Call for after-hours funding to boost GP access
NEW workforce data showing a drop in GP after-hours services has sparked fresh calls for more investment in general practice to improve access to GP services.
The latest BEACH report has revealed the percentage of doctors providing or involved in cooperative practice coverage of after-hours care decreased from 60% to 43% in the last 10 years. In the past year alone, coverage dropped by 2 per cent.
The report, General practice activity in Australia 2008-09, which draws on data gathered from 100,000 patient-encounters, also shows that just 39% of the 6183 encounters involving practice nurses were recorded as claimable as Medicare items.
RACGP president Dr Chris Mitchell said the decline in GP involvement in after-hours care reflected skewed Government investment in hospitals over primary care.
The GP super clinics and Comprehensive Primary Health Care Centres backed by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission would only solve a quarter of the nation’s after-hours needs, he said.
“We will need solutions for the other 75% of the population, and those solutions are going to require direct investment into general practice infrastructure, general practice teams and, frankly, general practice rebates,” Dr Mitchell said.
BEACH director Associate Professor Helena Britt meanwhile said the low percentage of practice nurse consultations eligible for rebates reflected the disparity between nurse capacity and the restricted nature of available subsidies.
“GPs are utilising the nurses more broadly, and there are more services that could perhaps be considered, such as INR, for possible [MBS] reimbursement for the future,” she said.
Dr Mitchell agreed there was scope for the Government to consider broader rebates for nurses within team care, particularly relating to preventive care.