RACGP warns against duplicating health services for people living with disability

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) is calling for the establishment of multi-disciplinary care teams with GPs to improve the health of people living with cognitive disability.

In a submission to the government’s response to the Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people with a disability, the RACGP said funding existing health services would be a better use of limited resources.

In its response to the Royal Commission, the government has recommended state and territories establish and fund specialist health and mental health services and introduce ‘health navigators’ for people with cognitive disability.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said it makes more sense to support existing health services including GPs.

“While the RACGP largely supports the government’s recommendations, it is concerning that the recommendation to establish specialist services doesn’t mention GPs at all – this is a big oversight,” she said.

“GPs play an integral role in disability care. We support patients from the day they’re diagnosed and are the central point for managing their care, working with other health professionals, their family and carers. GPs can make NDIS planning more efficient, reduce duplication, and better target supports because they know their patient and what works for them.

“As it stands, patients’ Medicare rebates don’t cover the true cost of providing comprehensive care to people with disability, and GPs are often left out-of-pocket for things, like completing NDIS paperwork if the patient isn’t present.

“Rather than funding the establishment of new services for people living with cognitive disability, the smartest and most-cost effective investment would be to fund multi-disciplinary care teams with GPs. We shouldn’t reinvent the wheel, it’s costly and causes fragmentation of care which isn’t good for a patients’ health.

“The Royal Commission made it clear that more needs to be done to improve the health and wellbeing of people with disability. We need to get this right. Comprehensive care delivered by GP coordinated teams that are properly funded will improve quality of life for people with cognitive disability and be a much more cost-effective use of limited resources.”

In its submission to the government’s response to the Royal Commission, the RACGP supported the recommendations to improve training in cognitive disability healthcare. The College also recommended:

  • Increasing patients’ Medicare rebates to reflect the real cost of practitioners providing comprehensive care to patients with disability

  • Expanding funding to include telehealth consultations to better support patients with disability who have difficulties travelling, and people in rural and remote areas.

  • Ensuring the key role played by GPs in disability and support is included in any future reforms.

  • Implementing health navigators, with additional consideration for those living in rural and remote areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


/Public Release.