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Supporting the family doctor

At the recent AMA National Conference, during the Funding quality general practice – is it time for change? policy session, a number of speakers talked about the need to better support general practice, including through the adoption of different models of payment.

Some ideas were more radical than others, but all speakers emphasised the need to better reward and support the ‘usual GP’, that is, the family doctor, in providing quality, comprehensive and long-term care.

The policy session concluded with members of National Conference recognising that, while fee-for-service should remain the primary funding model for general practice, the AMA should remain open to other payment models that could complement this. This will guide the AMA’s contribution to the Primary Care Review that has been established by the Federal Government.

As GPs, we are facing a number of challenges, both now and into the future.

Our patients are ageing and developing multiple chronic conditions, and they want greater access to personalised health care.

Simultaneously, GPs are seeking a better work/life balance, increasingly working in larger practices and in multidisciplinary teams, and our traditional role is under threat from other health professionals that want to expand their scope of practice.

Practice viability is under threat with each funding cut and inadequate indexation – let alone the current four-year freeze on indexation. Quality care is poorly remunerated, and we are under ongoing pressure to deliver more with less, and for less.

We need to be able to spend the time on patients that they need, including to educate them on the benefits of good nutrition and being active, as well as informing them how to implement the lifestyle changes that will enable them to lead healthy lives. To identify and manage their risk factors. To hear their concerns and work with them in treating or managing a health issue. To plan and coordinate their care.

GPs need the comprehensive care they provide to be recognised and rewarded. We need to be remunerated in a way that supports and encourages us to continually do better.

The valuable role that we play as family doctors will be once again honoured by the profession, and highlighted to the community and Government in the coming weeks as we approach AMA Family Doctor Week (19-25 July).

Join us in this endeavour by downloading the Family Doctor Logo and using it on your signature block or web profile. Members can download it here: article/ama-family-doctor-logo.

You can also download the Family Doctor Week poster for printing or displaying on your website. It can be downloaded from here: family-doctor-week-2015.

The AMA will take advantage of a number of opportunities in the coming months to advocate for improved funding arrangements to support both the profession and our patients. These include in providing input to the MBS Review Taskforce, the Primary Health Care Advisory Group and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health inquiry into Chronic Disease Prevention and Management in Primary Health Care.

Our key objective will be to ensure that the outcomes of these reviews support, not devalue, the family doctor in caring for patients.

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