There are currently many challenges running a general practice – rising costs, reduced income, staff shortages, managing COVID, the list goes on.
The Health Budget has been welcomed for its increased bulk billing incentives but there’s been far less discussion about what other spending is planned which could have a significant impact on general practice.
In Tonic Media Network’s exclusive GP webinar series, General Practice in a Rapidly Changing World, Dr Norman Swan recently interviewed the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler about the Budget and provided the opportunity for GPs across Australia to submit their questions.
During the discussion, Minister Butler highlighted that the “backbone of the healthcare system for Australians is their local general practitioner” and that general practice is his “number 1 priority”.
There were some large numbers and big commitments to general practice announced in the Budget including the flexible funding of $445 million targets for smaller and medium sized practices, addressing wage challenges, and increasing the workforce incentive payment by 30%.
Minister Butler said he is acutely aware of the current workforce issues and that it’s a very competitive global marketplace. “How can we improve our processes as we are being out competed by countries like Canada, Ireland, and the UK”.
He is also “terrified by the size of the pipeline in general practice being way too small”.
There is increased funding in the Budget for multidisciplinary teams, which aims to provide GPs with the necessary resources to enhance their deliver of high quality healthcare services to Australians with complex chronic illness. The Minister also wants to “examine existing billing arrangements to iron out anomalies”. Another priority is to eliminate barriers that get in the way of everyone operating at the top of their skill set – doctors, nurses and allied health workers”.
Mark Butler also said that a big part of the Budget is “better connecting different parts of the system particularly in a digital sense”.
There is a plan for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to empower consumers aiming for an efficient, accessible and high-quality healthcare system through engagement and improved services. “My general philosophy of how you do good healthcare policy is to have consumers at the table and there’s substantial additional funding in the budget to build consumer capability,” Mark Butler added.
In addition, voluntary patient registration will become a reality under the banner MyMedicare. The system will allow patients to register with a specific general practice, unlocking funding flows to the practice and benefits such as longer telehealth phone sessions.
When asked if the government is going to pay GPs to register new patients on MyMedicare, the minister said they won’t be and that they will “identify patient cohorts and build funding models around their needs”.
Dr Swan asked Minister Butler a range of questions from bulk billing and incentive payments to telehealth and chronic disease team-based care management.
To watch the webinar recording click here
To listen to the podcast click here