Government’s job not done to improve access to essential care and reduce costs for Australians: RACGP

Royal Australian College of GPs

In the lead up to the 2024 Federal Budget, the Royal Australian College of GPs is warning the government that their job is not done on improving access to essential health care for Australians grappling with the cost-of-living crisis.

The RACGP has called on the Federal Government to reduce out-of-pocket medical costs and improve access to care by boosting the general practice workforce, particularly for mental health, in its pre-Budget submission.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the government has more work to do to ensure every Australian can get the care they need.

“Last year’s Budget was just the first step to repair decades of devastating underfunding of Medicare and general practice – there is a long way to go to ensure every Australian can afford the care they need,” she said.

“Australia’s cost-of-living crisis is far from over. The RACGP’s last Health of the Nation survey found GPs are increasingly concerned about their patients’ financial issues and reports show Australians are delaying essential care.

“General practice helps people live longer healthier lives and avoid hospital. There is no substitute for quality GP care. The smartest and most cost-effective investment government can make is increasing patients’ Medicare rebates – this is what the government pays to subsidise the cost of healthcare for Australians. It will immediately improve access to affordable care.

“The RACGP is calling for the next Budget to include a 20% increase to patients’ Medicare rebates for longer consults and mental health. This will also make a difference for people with chronic illness who need more time with their GP.

“GPs are at the frontline of mental health care and we’re seeing more and more patients with mental health concerns. The proportion of GPs reporting mental health in their top reasons for patient consults increased from 61% in 2022 to 72% in 2023 in our last Health of the Nation report.

“The government also has work to do to boost Australia’s general practice workforce, so there’s enough GPs to meet increasing patient needs. Australia has an ageing population and epidemic of chronic disease and mental illness, which means increasing demand for GP care – and it takes over 10 years to train a GP.

“The RACGP is calling for the government to boost the general practice workforce by funding incentives and subsidised training. We’re also calling for support for practices to grow their teams and employ other health professions to improve access to care and costs for patients, including mental health workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists.

“As the Budget approaches, I urge the government to recognise that their job is not done to ensure every Australian can access the care they need, and with the cost-of-living crisis, now is not the time to lose momentum. We must continue strengthening Medicare and rebuilding general practice, because every Australian deserves access to high-quality and affordable care to live their best life.”

About us:

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.

/Public Release.