DoHAC opens review into after-hours primary care

3 minute read

The department has called on GPs, non-vocational doctors, nurses, allied health practitioners, Indigenous health workers and PHNs to contribute.

The Department of Health and Aged Care has opened a public review into after-hours primary care policies and programs. 

“Australia’s after-hour service system is complex and evolving, characterised by a patchwork of services; fragmented funding; and a diverse consumer base,” reads the consultation paper. 

“Several policy, technological, and cultural changes, partnered with the impact of covid have further transformed the system including the rise of telehealth and other virtual models of healthcare delivery and decline in the use of medical deputing services (MDS). 

“Recent reviews have highlighted the need to improve access to after-hours primary care and reduce pressure on emergency departments by increasing their availability, efficacy, and efficiency.” 

The review will look at the need for, current state and successful models of after-hours primary care services. 

According to DoHAC, the review will build on reviews undertaken in 2016 and 2020 and goes hand in hand with the review of the general practice incentives. 

The review follows recommendations from the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce’s final report and Australia’s Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan 2022-2032 to improve access to after-hours primary care. 

Last May, the federal government announced a suite of measures aimed at improving after-hours primary care, mostly through the Primary Health Networks After Hours program and Healthdirect after-hours GP helpline. 

The review will focus on, in particular: 

  • MBS Funding; 
  • the After Hours PIP (and any other relevant workforce or practice incentives); 
  • Healthdirect; 
  • the PHN After Hours Program; 
  • the Approved Medical Deputising Service (AMDS) Program; 
  • the Medicare Urgent Care Clinics Program. 

“There are several components which require attention to improve after hours accessibility, efficacy, and effectiveness,” reads the consultation paper. 

“These include streamlining service entry points and improving service integration; addressing primary care workforce shortages, as well as adjusting to shifting workforce attitudes and preferences; improving system navigability and understanding and accounting for differing community expectations and behaviours; increasing access to auxiliary services; and improving continuity of care where appropriate.” 

The consultation is open to the public. 

DoHAC has put out a call for input specifically from primary care providers, including practice owners and managers, general practitioners, non-vocational doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, allied health practitioners, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, Primary Health Networks and others working in primary care. 

Access to the consultation paper and instructions for participation can be found here

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