I attended the GP Crisis Summit in Canberra on 5 October, hosted by RACGP, with participation from many organisations involved in the primary care sector. With only 13.8% of medical graduates considering a general practice career and patients’ dissatisfaction with their access and affordability of clinical services being a topic all politicians are fielding, there is no doubt that we will be in for a rough ride if change is not actioned.
Representatives of RACGP, ACRRM, AMA, Health Workforce agencies, Universities, consumer advocates, PHNs and others from across Australia were represented. This wide-spread input was designed to provide a cross-section of contribution, aiming for a broad solution structure with short, medium, and long-term dimensions.
This meeting was the beginning of a formal process of producing a White Paper for the profession and general practice overall. It should be published by the end of October and presented as a solution to the crisis we face.
After the usual introductions, we were tasked to brainstorm solutions to three questions:
Unsurprisingly, the inadequate funding over many years was seen as critical to address quickly. As one speaker put it, if general practice is not financially viable in the short term, the longer-term goals will be irrelevant. Realistic adjustment to the MBS was the single most useful starting point, but several other inputs need consideration.
The pipeline of GPs is leaking at the front end, middle, and retirement end, so strategies to address these were considered. Of course, the funding issue overlaps with the overall motivation for a thriving career in general practice. There are also issues of leave mechanisms, lifestyle and others that come into play.
Data management may seem an outsider in the mix of issues canvassed; however, whatever changes are applied to general practice need to be monitored in a helpful way. And it was highlighted that general practice data has significant value and needs robust governance in the future.
As this story evolves over the next few weeks, we can expect a more precise direction from stakeholders and a call for specific action in several areas. It will challenge the government, and there will be updates in the system’s performance to measure success. Look for more as we go forward; I believe we are reaching a tipping point, and the possibility of widespread healthcare system failure is quite frightening.
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