In Consultation

The IPN blog for healthcare professionals.

  • General Practice outlook post budget

    Dr Ged Foley
    Posted by on 23 May 2017

    Well, another budget season has been and gone. As the dust is settling, it seems a good time to stand back, take a deep breath and consider what this means for General Practice in Australia.

    Happily, the end of the Medicare rebate freeze has been announced, though, as most will be aware, this a slow thaw rather than a rapid defrost. This year, indexation on the bulk-billing incentive alone will be lifted but we will have to wait until 2018 until indexation is once more applied to consultation items. The freeze on indexation of Care Plan item numbers will remain until 2020. You’ll forgive the pun, but this is rather cold comfort since by the time the indexation is lifted, we will have suffered through four years of effectively reduced funding and much damage has already been done to the financial viability of General Practice, to say nothing of the morale among GPs around the country.

    As for other measures of relevance to primary care, it is pleasing to note that the Aboriginal Health PIP has been reprieved though there remains a worrying lack of detail about the nature of the proposed QII payments, which are to replace many aspects of the current PIP and are due to start on 1st May 2018. The Health Care Homes trial has been delayed, with 20 practices slated to start in October 2017 and a further 180 in December of this year.

    IPN Medical Centres submitted a number of expressions of interest for participation in the HCH trial. It is our strong belief that we should take part in initiatives to trial new ways of delivering care and the principles underpinning the Health Care Home model have been given a great deal of thought and consideration. However, there remain some issues around mechanism of payments that need to be addressed before any IPN practice joins the trial and of course, we need to go through a process of consultation with GPs to ensure their interest before individual practices proceed.

    So we can take heart from the spirit of the budget, if not the level of funding. This budget does not represent the much-hoped-for reprieve to General Practice, but it does offer the possibility of relief if we can make a success of the Health Care Homes trial. Of course, the success of this trial depends not only on the financial viability but crucially, on the outcomes in patient care. Whichever way you look at this, given our position as the largest provider of primary healthcare in Australia and our commitment to ethical, collaborative and innovative approaches to patient care, it is absolutely essential that we take a leading role in piloting this important initiative. 

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