Bring back BEACH: RACGP

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The third and final part of the RACGP’s pre-budget submissions calls for the reinstatement of a national practice-based research network.

The RACGP is imploring the powers that be in the Treasury to fill the hole left by the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program by providing funding for a national practice-based research network this May.

Estimated to cost about $2.4 million, the network would provide access to linkable general practice data that could be used for research on disease surveillance, vaccine effectiveness and pandemic readiness.

Most importantly, it would provide the hard data to answer policy and research questions about the efficacy of general practice.

“Funding homegrown health research carried out in the place where most people access healthcare will improve the health and wellbeing of Australians,” RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins said.

“It’s simple. We know that practice-based health research networks are immensely valuable.”

Both Canada and the UK have similar programs which have been used to demonstrate the value of general practice.

The UK, for example, was able to mobilise its GP network over the pandemic to establish large-scale covid-19 treatment trials.

“The BEACH study significantly contributed to quality patient care, health system performance, and the work of the RACGP,” the college said.

“It is important that the next iteration of data collection and reporting is a collaborative endeavour including RACGP and universities across Australia, and that it leverages off advances in technology making it fit for purpose in the current and future general practice context.”

The RACGP envisions funding for the new program being administrated via the Medical Research Future Fund, with the general practice sector able to submit proposals for specific projects.

Rebuilding the GP academic workforce, the college argued, would have the added benefit of raising the profile of general practice as a specialty, attracting more graduates.

The other budget ask from the RACGP in the research space was $330,000 to develop living guidelines supporting preventative care.

Research was the third and final prong of the RACGP’s budget submission this year.

Prongs one and two focussed on increasing access to primary care and rebuilding the workforce respectively.

The federal budget will be handed down in May. After last year’s investment in the bulk billing incentives, hopes are high that 2024 will bring even more funding to the sector.

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