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GPs the heart of primary health care.



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Australian Medical Association Limited ABN 37 008 426 793

42 Macquarie Street, Barton ACT 2600: PO Box 6090, Kingston ACT 2604 Telephone: (02) 6270 5400 Facsimile (02) 6270 5499 Website : http://www.ama.com.au/

GPs THE HEART OF PRIMARY HEALTH CARE

Fully-trained medical practitioners must remain at the heart of any reformed primary care system, AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said today.

“GPs are the gatekeepers -we’re holding the gate open to facilitate access to the most appropriate specialist or allied health provider for each individual patient, and coordinating that care,” Dr Capolingua said.

She agreed with Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s assertion today that GPs were essential care coordinators and team leaders in primary health care.

“This provides the best outcome for patients,” Dr Capolingua said.

“Regardless of their circumstances, people still have a right to see a doctor when and where they need it. Patients tell us they are having difficulty getting an appointment with a GP, and we want to fix that problem.

“The AMA has put forward a positive solution that won’t compromise care for patients - and that is to use general practice nurses more in general practices.”

The Australia’s Health 2008 report, released today, showed that the overall supply of GPs decreased by 9 per cent between 1997 and 2005.

“This report highlights the failure of successive governments to plan for the primary care needs of the Australian community,” Dr Capolingua said.

“However, what this report does not show is that Australia is doubling the number of medical school graduates - which is good news.

“Let’s now focus on training those graduates, and encouraging many of them to become GPs.”

The Federal Budget in May was an opportunity for the Government to expand programs to give medical students an experience of general practice.

“It was a missed opportunity to expand pre-vocational GP training places for junior doctors, and to set out a plan to boost GP vocational training numbers,” Dr Capolingua said.

Another missed opportunity was an expansion to funding for general practice nurses.

“Practice nurses could be employed in every general practice in the country,” she said.

“This is a system which works, which can solve many of the problems articulated by the Minister today, and which would maintain continuity of care for patients - unlike some of the alternatives currently under consideration.

“We agree with the minister that we have to effectively use the skills and competency of general practice to look after patients. Expanding the use of practice nurses is one way to help that happen.”

24 June 2008

CONTACT: Kylie Walker 02 6270 5471 / 0405 229 152 Kylie Butler 02 6270 5466 / 0417 652 488