Govt underspends on medical services last financial year

03 October, 2017

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has revealed a significant Federal Government underspend on medical services last financial year and called for a commitment to support general practice – the most accessed and cost-effective part of Australia’s healthcare system.

The Final Budget Outcome 2016-17 confirms there was an $85 million underspend in medical services and benefits for the 2016-17 financial year.

"It was disappointing to see the 2016-17 Budget Outcome for medical services and benefits was again significantly below the 2016-17 Estimate, as it represents a missed opportunity to invest in preventive and community health care for the second year running" Dr Seidel said.

"General practice is the most cost-effective part of our healthcare system but it is being held hostage by ever increasing inefficiencies of other sectors."

Dr Seidel said, while there was an underspend in medical services and benefits, there was an overspend of $709 million for pharmaceutical benefits and services. The government also spent $58 million more than estimated on hospital services and $178 million on assistance to the States for public hospitals.

"GPs and their healthcare teams provide over 150 million patient services at a fraction of the cost of the far more expensive, overcrowded hospital system, yet our government continues to look past them and the value they bring to our community," Dr Seidel said.

"It makes sense that our government invests in the preventive medical care delivered by Australian GPs, to avoid further overcrowding in the expensive hospital system."

Dr Seidel said he would like to see the government show its commitment to general practice by increasing the Medicare rebate for longer consultations.

"Patients want to spend more time with their GP," Dr Seidel.

"The Federal Government can really make a difference to the quality of care GPs are able to provide Australians, by increasing this rebate.

"Every minute we spend with our patients allows us to obtain more information about their life, concerns, fears and expectations."

Dr Seidel said the government needs to carefully re-evaluate its annual health expenditure.

"If the Federal Government wants to save and to deliver outcomes Australian patients and taxpayers expect, it will reassess how it invests in our healthcare system," Dr Seidel said.

"Our patients want health, not necessarily treatment.

"The focus needs to shift from offering expensive treatments in institutions to effective strategies to maintain health within the community."

Dr Seidel said although it is the most accessed part of the health system, general practice receives less than nine per cent of the total annual health expenditure.

"If you do the sums, the total funding for comprehensive GP care, no matter over how many visits, is a measly $1 per person per day"

"GPs cannot continue to provide outstanding care to their patients if our government continues to fund services at such a low value," Dr Seidel said.

"It’s just unreasonable that world class GP care is being funded at a bargain basement rate."

View the 2016-17 Final Budget Outcome.

Visit the RACGP website to read the RACGP's media release on the 2015-16 Final Budget Outcome.