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Govt’s red tape war should target health: AMA

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Doctors are being forced to spend up to nine hours a week filling out Government forms and other red tape, hampering the access of patients to quality care and creating costly and unnecessary inefficiencies in the health system.

In a sobering assessment of the enormous regulatory burden being imposed on doctors, the AMA said research had shown GPs regularly lost the equivalent of a day of practice each week tied up with filling out forms, waiting on phone lines for prescription approvals, juggling Medicare provider numbers, and navigating complex MBS items.

AMA Vice President Dr Stephen Parnis said the massive administrative overload had to end, and called on the Abbott Government to make the health system the focus of its war on red tape.

Dr Parnis said that for every hour doctors spent filling in forms and waiting on phone lines, about four patients were denied access to care.

“Doctors cannot see as many patients as they could because of the time needed to deal with mountains of paperwork or waiting on the phone for authority prescription approvals,” Dr Parnis said. “Red tape is blocking patient access to much-needed medical care and advice.

“This bureaucracy overload is a very poor approach to health policy.”

An AMA survey found that doctors and patients wasted time equivalent to 25,000 patient consultations each year waiting for calls to the DHS authority free call service to be answered.

There are currently 447 medicines, including many common treatments, on the Authority Required list, forcing doctors and patients to lose thousands of hours each year because of delays in having calls to the Listing hotline answered and prescription approval given.

The AMA said the pointlessness of the system was underlined by the fact that only 2.8 per cent of calls to the service did not result in prescription authorisation.

In a submission to Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Senator Josh Frydenberg, who is co-ordinating the Government’s efforts to cut red tape, the AMA has proposed that the PBS prescription authority system be scrapped, that doctors be allocated a single Medicare provider number, that Medicare payments systems and electronic health record registration be streamlined, and that chronic disease management items be simplified.

Many of these ideas are not new and have been endorsed by a succession of Government reviews over the years, but Dr Parnis said progress so far had been “modest”.

“The Abbott Government, however, has stated that it is committed to cutting red tape, and has introduced two red tape repeal days each year to the Parliamentary calendar,” the AMA Vice President said. “The AMA looks forward to medical practice red tape being featured in future repeal days,” Dr Parnis said.

The Federal Government has directed that the authority prescription system be reviewed, and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has indicated that authority requirements for oncology treatments is its top priority, while treatments for cardiovascular disease, psychiatric conditions and eye problems, will be considered at a meeting next March, and all remaining drugs on the list – which includes those used in palliative care – will be considered at a meeting in July 2015.

The AMA red tape submission is available at ama-red-tape-submission

Adrian Rollins