Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia – Grattan Institute – 29 September 2013

Posted on October 1, 2013. Filed under: General Practice, Pharmacy, Rural Remote Health, Workforce | Tags: |

Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia – Grattan Institute – 29 September 2013

by Stephen Duckett and Peter Breadon

“This report outlines a plan for the parts of rural Australia with the lowest access to GP services. We don’t aim to bring these areas up to the national average, just to end the most extreme shortages. To achieve this, we have to make the most of scarce resources, while keeping GPs at the centre of the system.

The first step is to make much better use of pharmacists’ skills. Pharmacists are highly trained, have deep expertise in medicines, and are located in communities throughout Australia. But their role is far more limited in Australia than in many other countries.

With the agreement of GPs and patients, pharmacists should be able to provide repeat prescriptions to people with simple, stable conditions. They should also be able to provide vaccinations and to work with GPs to help patients manage chronic conditions.

We also need to increase access to other services, including diagnosis, which currently only GPs can provide. Australia should introduce physician assistants, health workers who practise medicine under the supervision of a doctor. There is good evidence that physician assistants could expand the care available in under-served areas, without compromising quality or safety, and at an affordable cost.

The proposals in this report only apply to the seven rural areas with the worst shortages of GP services. They can be in place within five years. In 2011-12, they would have resolved the worst shortages for just $30 million. The costs would mostly have been offset by fewer, or less costly, hospitalisations as a result of better population health.”


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