AMA urges after-hours overhaul

2 minute read

Fit-for-purpose MBS rebates are, once again, the name of the game. 

The path to fixing after-hours care does not lie in urgent care clinics, the AMA has warned.  

After-hours primary care is shaping up to be a major battleground for the future of primary care, with the government having launched a new review of after-hours policies and programs just two months ago.  

It’s set to consider everything from UCCs and medical deputising services to Medicare rebates.  

The AMA was scathing in its assessment of recent budget measures in its submission to the review

“Whilst the 2023–24 federal budget included $149.5 million over two years to ‘improve access to after hours care’, this funding went mainly to PHNs and Healthdirect’s after-hours GP helpline,” it said. 

“At the same time, the budget also included $358.5 million over five years for UCCs (including eight new clinics) with no out-of-pocket costs to patients.”  

On Sunday, around a week after the AMA published its submission, Federal Health Minister Mark Butler pre-empted tonight’s budget and announced a $277 million package to open 29 new urgent care clinics over the next 12 months.  

Other issues identified by the AMA included the fact that UCCs were cannibalising the already scant GP after-hours workforce, as well as the multiplicity of after-hours offerings outside general practice being confusing to patients.  

Its proposed fixes were to ensure MBS rebates were sufficient to attract GPs to work after hours, enable clinics to share proportionally in the savings generated by fewer emergency department attendances and to support the implementation of interoperable technology so deputising services can communicate with a patient’s regular GP.  

The AMA also said after-hours funding models should not “enable a government funded or controlled service to compete unfairly with local GPs provision of after-hours services”.  

Submissions on the after-hours review have now closed.  

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