The NSW and Victorian governments announced today a partnership to expand urgent care services through general practice across both states.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that 25 urgent care services will be established in partnership with local GPs to ease pressure on hospital emergency departments. It comes following the Victorian Government announcing last week that five GP clinics in Melbourne, Epping, Sunshine, Clayton, and Ballarat would reopen as priority care centres.

Welcoming the move, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that it was high time the state and federal governments worked together to create one health system. 

“There is a great deal of patient suffering when health is used as a political football and this plan signals an end to that, which the RACGP welcomes” she said.   

“This initiative begins implementing one of the aims of the primary health care 10 year plan. It makes sense for state governments to recognise the critical role general practice plays and the ability to work in the acute care and after-hours space, which is traditional territory for GPs working at full scope.”   

Professor Price also called for this to be made available to every general practice in Australia, saying that this level of care should never have been defunded in the first place.

“Further, a nation-wide investment would enhance the evidence-based continuity-of-care model as we know most patients prefer to see their usual trusted GP,” she said.

The RACGP has long been saying that general practice could work cooperatively to help ease the pressure on emergency departments.

Professor Price feels that GPs need to be properly resourced to do the work theey have been trained to do.

“General practice care, including preventive care work, costs far less than expensive hospital care. We are also aware that more needs to be done within hospitals to expedite those patients needing admission and an acute bed, as well as to embed long term preventive care to patients with chronic conditions so they rarely need the use of hospital services,” she says.

The RACGP looks forward to the evaluation of these clinics and to work on the concept of the ‘one health system’ to create a seamless care journey for patients in need.

RACGP Victoria Chair Dr Anita Munoz hailed today’s announcement as a “positive step forward” but warned that general practice needed a helping hand.

“The RACGP has been calling for further investments into already existing general practices to allow them to undertake work they are capable of via extended hours and for category 4 and 5 emergencies, but which require funding that reflects the costs involved in providing such care in our communities,” Dr Munoz said.

“For the states to fund general practice activities indicates an understanding that innovative solutions to problems affecting our health system, including flexible funding arrangements, will be the way to provide the right health services to patients in the right place at the right time.”

Dr Munoz pointed out that we need genuine, long-term reforms to fix Australia’s ailing health system. That includes the federal Government substantially boosting investment in general practice care so that no patients are left behind.

“This would mean more GPs across Australia, more practices keeping their doors open, and more subsidised services for patients,” she said.