RACGP echoes calls for further after-hours care reform

3 minute read

The college has joined the AMA in demanding changes to MBS rebates to offer greater support for GPs.

The RACGP has aligned with the AMA in urging the government to implement changes allowing GPs to claim MBS rebates for after-hours primary care.  

In a statement following the college’s submission to the DoHAC review into after-hours policies and programs, RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins was heavily critical of recent measures to expand after-hours care delivered through urgent care clinics, PHNs and Healthdirect’s GP helpline.  

“In my home of Mackay, there was previously an after-hours clinic that provided 24-hour care. However, after the government made changes to the funding model, it’s now operated by emergency doctors, costs patients three times as much, and closes at 10pm,” Dr Higgins said

“Getting the funding model right is vital. By allowing GPs to claim after-hours rebates from 6pm on weeknights and 12pm on Saturdays for services delivered in the practice, we can enable more practices to remain open longer.  

“By supporting GPs to provide this care, we can expand what we do, and keep more patients out of hospital.” 

According to the statement, the college’s submission to the review had reflected its position statement on after-hours primary care services, including emphasising the need for continuity of care and access to high-quality services preferably accessed through a patient’s regular GP. 

Dr Higgin’s comments reiterated claims made by the AMA in its scathing assessment of the government’s after-hours care investment provided through the 2024-25 federal budget, with the association emphasising the pressure UCCs were placing on an already stretched GP after-hours workforce as well as the confusion generated by the multiplicity of after-hours services on offer.  

“Current financial arrangements supporting after hours primary care services have variable effectiveness”, the AMA submission read. 

“The after-hours MBS rebates are not sufficient enough to attract GPs to work unsociable hours without creating patient gap payments. 

“It is very difficult to find GPs who will work between 6-8pm at in hours rates, and not being able to cover this ‘gap’ inhibits practices from staying open and taking advantage of increased rebates after 8pm.  

“If after-hour rebates applied from 6pm this would encourage practices to stay open and would better support patient continuity of care, as they would not need to be referred to the practice’s Approved Medical Deputising Service or default to attending an emergency department.” 

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