RACP welcomes Budget’s substantive investment in primary health care but urges inclusion of specialist care to address complex conditions

 10 May 2023

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has welcomed the Federal Budget’s significant investment in primary health care and the Government’s reforms to multidisciplinary care.

The RACP is urging the Government to work with specialists to ensure patients with complex and comorbid conditions get the specialist care they need as part of the roll out of the announced reforms.

Under reforms announced in the budget, the Government will invest $3.5 billion over five years to triple bulk billing incentives for common consultations for children under the age of 16, pensioners and other Commonwealth concession card holders. The Government has also announced it will boost incentives to expand multidisciplinary team care in general practice.

RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small says, “Treasurer Jim Chalmers should be commended for overseeing such a significant reform to the Medicare system.  We welcome that the bulk billing announcement focusses on groups most at need and we strongly support the broader focus on multidisciplinary wrap-around care.

“However, we know more and more Australians are suffering from complex and comorbid conditions that the primary health care system cannot adequately address without integrating specialist care from the outset.

“The Government must urgently include specialist care into its reforms so that patients can access the services they need. GPs, nurses, specialists and allied health practitioners are all part of the solution to the ongoing crisis in our health system.

“Nearly half of Australians suffer from at least one chronic condition. We urge the Federal Government to involve specialists in multidisciplinary care at an early point to limit disease progression and help patients navigate comorbidities and complex conditions.

“We welcome the Government’s reform package and look forward to helping them implement substantive reforms to Australia’s healthcare system. Specialist involvement should be integrated across the range of proposed reforms as part of MyMedicare, expanded telehealth and after hours care and digital transformation, as well as seamless participation in multidisciplinary care teams.

“Including specialist care in multidisciplinary care will strengthen Medicare and boost efficiency of the healthcare system, reduce the strain on hospitals, save money long-term and, most importantly, secure the health and wellbeing of our patients,” Dr Small said.

The RACP has also welcomed steps forward on several other initiatives physicians have been calling for, including:

  • $90.9 million being allocated towards the establishment of an Australian Centre for Disease Control, to help detect, prevent, and respond to current and emerging health threats.

  • $818.5 million invested in First Nations health, including funding to build community partnerships and aged care services.

  • $737 million towards early intervention and education programs to reduce smoking and vaping rates and to increase the uptake of regular health checks.

  •   $377.3 million allocated for Australians grappling with opioid dependency to access the treatment they need at their local pharmacy.

The RACP also calls on the Government to ensure funding in the next budget to substantially deliver the National Climate, Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which is currently being developed.

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