NACCHO political alert: Health Minister Dutton transforming communities – and the role of technology in the future of general practice

Peter

“I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the GPRA as one of the many organisations dedicated to improving indigenous health outcomes and capacity of the indigenous workforce.

The Indigenous General Practice Registrars Network, which is now co-ordinated by GPRA, provides a forum for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars to provide professional and cultural support for one another.

The GPRA is also very committed to the Australian Government’s Closing the Gap campaign and to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars on their way to becoming GPs.

Doctors need to be equipped to deal with the special health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially in remote settings and the Remote Vocational Training Scheme – though small – is helping to deliver this much needed support.”

Minister Peter Dutton speaking at the Future of General Practice 2014 (#fgp14) conference, Parliament House Canberra

PICTURE ABOVE; Earlier this week the Health Minister Peter Dutton along with Indigenous Health Minister  Senator Fiona Nash met with the NACCHO board including Chair Justin Mohamed and Matthew Cooke. Picture Colin Cowell

FULL SPEECH

For the past four years I have spoken at the GPRA’s annual conference while in Opposition, so I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address this event as the Minister for Health.

Firstly thank you to the GPRA for continuing to look for innovative ways to further improve the quality of Australia’s health care through higher standards of education and training.

These conferences play an important role in the future of the health care sector, providing an opportunity for leaders in the field to share ideas and investigate ways we can support the next generation of GPs to provide the standards of care that Australians need and deserve.

Thank you also for your important work representing the nation’s future GPs – and I note the importance of the theme you have chosen for this conference –transforming communities – and your focus on the role of technology in the future of general practice.

New technology and social media have been transformative forces in modern Australia, touching virtually every aspect of our daily lives. I suspect your experience with Twitter is a little different to mine.

The many new young registrars we have coming through today, many of whom will be tomorrow’s GP in communities throughout Australia, are high users of online tech both personally and professionally.

You are part of a new generation of physicians for whom new online technology and social media tools will greatly influence their professional life. This opens up new opportunities – both for GPs as well as the communities and patients they support.

A large part of the challenge we face today is the need to think about how we can better utilise those tools to better support you – to help you do your job more efficiently and effectively, and to achieve better outcomes for patients.

From a Government’s perspective the remuneration around these challenging models is a great challenge.

But there are some other important issues that I’d like to talk about that go to the issue of transformation.

I’ll begin by reiterating some of the key points about Australia’s health system. It is important to any conversation about future workforce planning.

Comparatively speaking, Australia has a health system that delivers, but without strengthening our health system, it

will fall short of servicing the nation’s health needs over the coming years and decades.

Total expenditure on health care in Australia increased to $140 billion in 2011-12. That’s around $6200 per person per year. Only a decade earlier, the yearly figure was only $3300.

The pressure points are many—our ageing population, costs of new medical technologies, genomics, dementia, obesity, mental health and personalised medicines, to name a few.

At the moment, the Government is awaiting the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Audit and we will respond accordingly.

However, it won’t be a shock to anyone that the upcoming Budget will be tough – it has to be.

In short, we need to transform our health system. We need to take what is currently a 1980s model and transform it into an effective, efficient and stable system of health that delivers all Australians the quality care they need right now, as well as into the future.

Ten per cent of Australians utilise 46 per cent of MBS services. Clearly the system is not working for them.

To reduce the impact on services, we have a plan to improve efficiency, reduce duplication and red tape, redirect funding to patient services and continue to build a highly skilled health workforce.

In regards to the health workforce, there are both short and long term challenges to consider.

In the short term, we need to consider what the taxpayers’ investment is buying and where expenditure provides the greatest value for money.

In the long term, we need a stronger, more strategic focus in regards to workforce planning to ensure we have a sustainable and increasingly efficient health workforce.

I can say unequivocally that general practice will be at the front and centre of our plan. The Australian Government is committed to rebuilding general practice and putting GPs back at the centre of our health care system.

Now more than ever, the role of the GP is evolving.

I don’t need to tell anyone here today that patient health is becoming increasingly complex, with emerging challenges such as the growing burden of chronic disease, technology and the ageing population to name but a few.

One-third of Australia’s burden of disease is due to ‘lifestyle’ health risks such as poor diet, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol misuse.

The number of overweight and obese adults continues to rise, with nearly two out of every three adults classified as overweight or obese.

Similarly, diabetes rates in adults have risen over the past decade.

Add to this the increasing consumer expectations regarding their health care, workforce pressures, inequity of services in some areas, and a challenging economic environment, and the need for a skilled and adaptable GP workforce has never been greater.

While there is concern around the increase in medical graduates, we are working with the private sector and the state and territory governments to ensure that training capacity for doctors—including GPs—is better managed through the development of national medical training plans.

As I’ve said many times before, I believe significant productivity gains can—and must—come through a combination of improved public sector efficiency and bold new ideas from the private sector.

We should be leveraging the private sector, not just for services, but also to meet workforce training challenges.

This Commonwealth Medical Internship initiative is one example of how this can work, and it will foster a strong network of private hospitals which can train interns, boosting the nation’s medical training capacity.

In some regions, such as Bundaberg, public and private partnerships have developed as a result of the initiative, giving interns invaluable experience in a variety of healthcare settings.

We will also keep working with states and territories to help them streamline their internship training systems, and I hope to update you on this work in the near future.

Priority for new training positions will be in rural and regional areas to help bolster the medical workforce in communities who need them most. And each Commonwealth funded intern has a rural return of service obligation.

This year alone, there will be 76 more doctors working in Australia than would otherwise have been the case.

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the GPRA as one of the many organisations dedicated to improving indigenous health outcomes and capacity of the indigenous workforce.

The Indigenous General Practice Registrars Network, which is now co-ordinated by GPRA, provides a forum for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars to provide professional and cultural support for one another.

The GPRA is also very committed to the Australian Government’s Closing the Gap campaign and to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars on their way to becoming GPs.

Doctors need to be equipped to deal with the special health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially in remote settings and the Remote Vocational Training Scheme – though small – is helping to deliver this much needed support.

I announced during the election campaign that in Government we would invest $119 million to double the Practice Incentive Program (PIP) teaching Payments for GPs who provide teaching opportunities. We are implementing that promise.

Rural and remote general practitioners will receive an additional benefit due to the rural loading that applied under the PIP in recognition of the additional challenges that these practitioners can face.

We are also committing $52.5 million in infrastructure grants to help rural and regional general practices build their training infrastructure, so that they can train more students, more junior doctors and more registrars.

These grants will be provided based on an equal commitment from the practice.

This will leverage private investment and help ensure the most efficient and productive use of the taxpayers’ dollars.

Before I finish, I’d like to take a moment to address the GP Registrars in the room this morning.

There’s no doubt that you are embarking on your careers at a challenging—but very exciting—time for Australia’s health system.

Throughout your careers you’ll have many opportunities to help many people in many communities – and that gives me great confidence.

I wish you the very best for the future and I hope that many of you – if not all of you – become agents of change and transformation

in the communities within which you will work

You can hear more about Aboriginal health at the NACCHO SUMMIT

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The importance of our NACCHO member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHS) is not fully recognised by governments.

The economic benefits of ACCHS has not been recognised at all.

We provide employment, income and a range of broader community benefits that mainstream health services and mainstream labour markets do not. ACCHS need more financial support from government, to provide not only quality health and wellbeing services to communities, but jobs, income and broader community economic benefits.

A good way of demonstrating how economically valuable ACCHS are is to showcase our success at a national summit.

SUMMIT WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO

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