Lowering patient co-payments for GP consults in order to improve access to general practice is the government's first priority. In its election manifesto Labour committed to lowering the cost of GP visits by $10 through:
Despite these questions and potential unintended consequences the new Minister of Health has reiterated the Government's intention to deliver on this promise.
The Government has indicated it expects these policy changes to be implemented by 1 July 2018.
The timing seems questionable given consultation has barely begun, the lack of detail on implementation and the work that will need to occur to give effect to the policies.
Since the establishment of the coalition Government, the following commitments have also been announced:
The timing and implementation details for these commitments are not yet clear.
The Government has also signalled a broader review of primary care funding, with the aim of further reducing barriers to accessing primary care and ensuring the financial sustainability of practices.
The terms of reference for this review have not been developed, and we expect to have the opportunity to contribute to them. We will want to make sure the review considers how to reverse years of under investment in primary care, and how to provide adequate funding to support implementation of new models of care that are required to ensure general practice remains sustainable into the future.
The Government has begun talks with representatives from primary care over implementation of its proposed policy changes. As you would expect the sector has been occupied with considering their potential impact. Pinnacle has been involved in discussions through the N4 group (which includes Pinnacle, ProCare, Pegasus and Compass) and in other national forums.
We are preparing for the negotiations on the proposed changes. We have to be pragmatic about the Government's intentions to follow through on their election promises, and we'll be working to make sure any deal is as fair as possible for practices.
We have good data on GP service utilisation for all Pinnacle practices. As soon as there is a detailed proposal on the table we'll model what the impact might be for your practice and discuss this with you.
We will be ready to advise on policy changes as details becomes clear, and our teams will support your practice to implement changes when they come into effect.
The combination of a new Government, new Minister of Health and, changes in the Ministry presents the first opportunity in years to influence health policy agenda. A new federation of primary healthcare providers is an attempt to unify as a sector and make the most of this.
Annette King, former Minister of Health, has been appointed as inaugural chair of an establishment board for the Federation.
Pinnacle Incorporated chair Frank Cullen and I attended a national primary care summit where the federation was launched. For a number of years Pinnacle has stood apart from national advocacy organisations because we have been able to achieve more influence on our own. While we support the aims of the federation the jury is still out on the effectiveness of such a group. We will watch the activities of the establishment board with interest.
I will keep you posted on any developments. If you have any questions or comments on the approach of the new Government please get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org.