Government commits ‘a much-needed’ $220 million to improve GP services nationwide

Apr 24, 2023
The GP Grants aim to provide extensive support to general practices and eligible ACCHOs all over Australia. Source: Getty Images.

The Australian Government is delivering a $220 million investment to boost access and the quality of GP services across the nation.

As part of its commitment to enhancing medical services across the country, the government has launched the Strengthening Medicare – General Practice (GP) Grants Program. This program will provide all General Practices and eligible Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) with funding to improve access to medical care and enhance the quality of their services.

The GP Grants aim to provide extensive support to general practices and eligible ACCHOs all over Australia, enabling them to make significant investments in innovation, equipment, training, and minor capital works across any of the three investment streams listed below:

  1. Enhance digital health capability
  2. Upgrade infection prevention and control arrangements
  3. Maintain and/or achieve accreditation against the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Standards for General Practices (5th edition).

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler recognised the tireless efforts of doctors throughout the pandemic while also acknowledging that “doctors deserve more than thanks, that’s why we’re giving them the resources to invest in their practices”.

“The $220 million investment will give a much-needed boost to general practices across the country,” Butler said.

“We understand the crucial importance of primary health care provided by GPs. This funding will help improve practices and make sure Australians can access safe, quality and affordable healthcare when and where they need it.”

The multi-million dollar investment comes after the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) called on the government to make medicines more affordable, while also reducing the administrative burden of prescribing them.

The goal is to free up more time for general practitioners to dedicate to their patients.

The RACGP claimed that the May Budget “is an opportunity for government to reduce cost of living pressures for Australians”.

Some of the reforms the RACGP proposes include:

  • extending the length of prescriptions to save patients money and time;
  • allowing a larger supply of medicines in one go – a two-month supply would halve dispensing fees, which cost taxpayers $1.67 billion in 2021-22;
  • investigating the benefits of removing the $1 discount rule, which caps discounts on medicines;
  • overhauling Australia’s anti-competitive pharmacy ownership and location laws which inflate costs for patients;
  • make prescribing faster and easier for GPs so they have more time for patient care by streamlining the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) prescribing system, which is unnecessarily complex.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins explained that Australia has “a cost-of-living crisis and a health system crisis on our hands”.

“People across Australia are feeling the crunch and struggling to access or afford the healthcare and medicines they need,” Higgins said.

“But there are simple reforms the government can and should make that will save patients’ money and time, as well as freeing up GPs so we can see more patients, and reducing the overall healthcare budget.

“This includes extending the length of prescriptions. If GPs could give longer prescriptions of 15-months instead of the usual 6-months to suitable patients, it would make a big difference. GPs should have the flexibility to decide what’s right for their patients.

“Another easy way to lower costs is to allow patients to get a larger supply of medicines in one go by increasing the supply interval for certain medicines. This will save the government money on dispensing fees which could in turn be used to further subsidise patient care.”

Higgins stressed that “these reforms are an easy way to help those most in need, including people who are older and those with chronic conditions who often need multiple medicines.”

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