Today, the Albanese Government has released the report of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce.
Developed by primary health care leaders and experts in their fields, the report sets out a recommended pathway for significant reforms to strengthen Medicare and rebuild general practice.
Australians deserve access to a world class primary care system that is designed and funded for the 21st century - a system that reflects the disease profile of an older population, including a population that has more complex chronic disease.
After nine years of cuts and neglect by the former Government, primary care is in the worst shape it has been in 40 years - bulk billing rates are in decline and only 14 per cent of medical graduates now choose to work in general practice, dropping from 50 per cent.
Patient centred care is central to the recommendations of the report, supported by an expansion of multidisciplinary care as the key to managing the health of an older population with more complex and chronic disease.
The report recommends supporting this with new blended funding models, integrated with the existing fee-for-service model, allowing teams of GPs, nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals to work together to deliver the care people need.
The Taskforce found that strengthening primary care with a greater range of health professionals working to their full scope of practice will optimise use of the health workforce across a stretched primary care sector. This will deliver increased access to healthcare and improved equity of outcomes in rural, regional and remote areas.
Recognising the unique challenges in rural and remote Australia, the report calls for a greater role for Primary Health Networks, including to commission nursing and allied health services to bolster general practice teams in these areas.
The Taskforce found that Strengthening Medicare requires the modernisation of digital systems and significant improvements in the way patients’ information is accessed and shared across the health system. An overhaul of My Health Record and improvements to better connect clinical IT systems across the health system is recommended to enable safe, quality healthcare, better medicine management for patients and to empower people to be more involved in their own health care.
The report outlines that the success of these reforms will rely on engagement with consumers in the design and delivery of services, and support for the sector to transition to new ways of working.
The Government has committed $750 million to deliver the highest priority investments in primary care, in line with the recommendations of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce. We will bring forward our plan through this year’s Budget.
The final report of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce can be found here.
Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:
“Medicare has been the crowning achievement of our health system for 40 years, but it is time for reform. Now is the time to ensure Medicare delivers the kind of primary care Australians expect, both now and into the future.
“Our Government has committed $750 million to the Strengthening Medicare Fund, which will be the start of a major revamp of the primary care system.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks to each member of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce for their hard work and insights. This is an important foundation for the work to come in modernising and improving Medicare.
“The improvements they have identified are aimed at making sure every Australian can get the high quality care they deserve.”