GPs urge: review nurse incentive next
BUOYED by a win on securing collaborative agreements with nurse practitioners, GP groups have issued a united call to the Gillard Government to review its practice nurse incentive.
GP umbrella group United General Practice Australia called for the review, repeating claims that the decision to provide block funding for practice nurses, while stripping GPs of the ability to claim certain nurse MBS item numbers, would hurt practices. As it stands, the scheme will provide practices with up to $25,000 per GP to employ practice nurses. The maximum payment per practice is $125,000.
GPs believe they are set to lose out significantly, with one practice estimating that the forfeit of nurse MBS item numbers will see it lose up to $120,000 a year (MO online, 15 June 2010).
Queensland GP Dr Patrick Byrnes was concerned the loss of item numbers for immunisation and cervical screenings could push practice nurses to instead provide less evidence-based services – such as four-year-old health checks – for which item numbers were retained.
“The same way [the Govern-ment] revisited their initial concepts about nurse practitioners after doctor feedback, they really should revisit this practice nurse initiative,” said Dr Byrnes, who worked on the Nurse Practitioner Advisory Group.
RACGP vice-president Dr Morton Rawlin said the scheme had not been thought through and urged Labor not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.