Canberra may yet delay the roll-out of Health Care Homes trials following renewed calls from GP groups to hold fire
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said she would take advice from her department after GP groups renewed their demand for a three- to six-month delay in the Health Care Homes trials.
In response to the call by six GP groups, under the banner of United General Practice Australia (UGPA), Ms Ley said the government would stick to the December 15 deadline for expressions of interest from medical practices to take part in the trials.
However, a statement from Ms Ley’s office late on Tuesday left open the possibility of a postponement in the 2017 stage-one starting date, saying she would receive advice on key factors associated with the voluntary trials.
“If advice was received about the effective rollout of Health Care Homes for commencement on 1 July 2017 she would consider such advice at that time,” the statement said.
Earlier this year Ms Ley hailed Health Care Homes as a reform to revolutionise Medicare.
The scheme is aimed at dealing with an epidemic of chronic disease through patient-centred primary care using a blended payments system with patients divided into tiers according to their condition.
But UGPA warned that the revolution should be postponed or risk fizzling out.
“The implementation of the Health Care Home, including the model, the tiers, and supporting practice tools, has been rushed and risks undermining this vital opportunity to get the model right,” UGPA said on Tuesday.
The group, representing the RACGP, ACRRM, RDAA, GPSA, AMA, and GPRA, called for a three- to six-month postponement.
Doctors are also unhappy with federal funding plans for the HCH experiment.
In recent weeks, senior doctors, including RACGP President Bastian Seidel, have said they feared the scheme was being set up to fail because of the rushed nature of preparations and inadequate funds.
The government has allocated a little more than $100 million to support the rollout of stage one, which aims to enrol up to 65,000 patients in 200 medical practices in 10 regions across Australia.
“It is voluntary for medical practices and patients and no doctor is required to participate if they do not want to,” Ms Ley said in the statement.
“It will not start until mid-2017 and it will be fully evaluated before any future roll-out to the wider community.”
Ms Ley said the development of stage one of Health Care Homes had included the views of the medical profession through an advisory group in the Department of Health.
Participation is sought from general practices and Aboriginal Health Services in the regions of Perth North; Northern Territory; Adelaide; Country South Australia; Brisbane North; Western Sydney; Nepean Blue Mountains; Hunter, New England and Central Coast; South Eastern Melbourne; and Tasmania.