We told you so: Ignoring primary care is never a good idea

Last night’s undecided election results raise many questions – and doctors will say: we told you so.

Family doctors have made it very clear during the lead-up to the federal election that it’s crucial for governments to invest in primary care to keep Australians well and out of hospital.

But not only that, during the longest election campaign in Australia’s history, GPs around the country have had discussions with millions of patients about the future of their healthcare.

Looking at the outcome of the election night, it seems that voters have taken the message to the polling booths.

Wealth should not affect our health

The day after the federal election date was announced, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) launched the You’ve been targeted campaign, warning people about the looming higher out-of-pocket costs, which have already become a reality.

The aim of the campaign was not to increase health corporate profits or fill doctors’ pockets, it wasn’t even a political campaign – it was all about the message that the Australian people must be able to visit their doctor when they need to.

Doctors called on a newly elected government to invest in quality and sustainable general practice to strengthen patient services.

“Our first and foremost responsibility is to our patients,” said RACGP President Dr Frank Jones, “and this is really the message from the College in the campaign, because this is about the fact that we cannot sustain quality general practice under the present Medicare freeze.”

Posters went up in GP surgeries, messages were printed at the bottom of prescriptions, TV ads were aired and there were 2340 syndicated media stories featuring the RACGP on national TV, print and radio, and in medical and consumer media outlets across all formats.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) followed suit and threw its weight behind the issue, and shortly after many political parties made health a key focus during the election campaign. The policy shift by Labor to lift the Medicare freeze and fund chronic disease management by general practice teams was welcomed by many.

What should happen next?

Whatever the outcome of the election will be, the new government would do well to sit down with GP leaders and develop a long-term plan to strengthen primary care. The message is simple and supported by abundant evidence: strong primary care keeps people well and out of expensive hospitals. Investing in general practice patient care pays off!

Dr Frank Jones: “The RACGP is seeking progressive health reform and a genuine commitment to the future of our healthcare system from our political leaders and we are committed to discussing funding models for a sustainable and effective primary health care system.”

As GPs around the country are moving away from bulk billing, health minister Susan Ley has already indicated she is prepared to look at a medical home model. The proposed appointment of a National Rural Health Commissioner and commitment of the Coalition to pursue a National Rural Generalist Training Pathway is another positive sign.

However, the medical home is more than a hospital avoidance project. “In a patient-centred medical home, patients have a stable and ongoing relationship with a general practice that provides continuous and comprehensive care throughout all life stages,” said Dr Jones. “This model is the most cost-effective way to address the needs of patients, healthcare providers and funders.”

There are many versions of the medical home or healthcare home. The ‘gold standard’ version is outlined in the RACGP’s Vision for General Practice and a sustainable healthcare system.

Part of the future plan should be the continuation of high quality primary care research and the introduction of non-face-to-face patient services such as video consultations to improve access to family doctors and to transform Australian primary healthcare to the digital age.

5 thoughts on “We told you so: Ignoring primary care is never a good idea

  • How much funding is available for the medical home? The way I’ve heard Sussan Ley about it, it sounds as if a set fee is available to manage ALL of health cost. A capitated fee. I suspect that this will result in being asked to do more and more for a frozen set fee – rather like an ‘all you can eat buffet’ for a set price.


  • Hi Tim, succes will depend on the details of the chosen model – and as said there are too many models circulating at the moment. It will need clinician input at all levels. Don’t forget chronic disease items are largely already capitated at the moment.


  • This has been a very vocal campaign, but the rebate freeze is still in place. The Australian College of Non VR GPs remains the only organisation ever to have successfully ended a rebate freeze (and then doubled rebates for good measure). We have a plan that delivers a $50k pa per GP rebate increase and ends the freeze. It has support at the highest levels of government. There are a few provisos, and one is that the RACGP cease its anti-government campaign. Please come and talk to us when you are ready.


  • Reblogged this on partridgegp and commented:

    Let’s spend the health dollar a little better.

    Here’s a thought. Only those who have a FRACGP or FACRRM should be able to access the VR item numbers – which are
    3, 23, 36, 44, 721, 723, 732, 900, 903, 2712, 2715, 2717, 2713, 597, 599 and all of the home/nursing home equivalents (5003 etc). Registrars may only access the VR numbers when in an accredited training program in accredited practices during training time. 10% of the savings from this to be paid via the PIP to teaching practices, 90% of savings to be put towards increasing the level B VRGP rebate.

    What do you think?


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