Urgent after-hours care review should focus on patient need, not which doctors can bill Medicare

Monday, July 31, 2017

‘The Australian healthcare system and patients will be poorly served by restricting use of urgent MBS items only to general practitioners working predominantly in the in-hours period’, says Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

The AHHA was responding to the preliminary report of the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce on Urgent after-hours primary care services funded by the MBS.

‘The focus should be on how care is appropriately provided to people in need of urgent after-hours care, rather than on which subset of medical practitioners should be able to provide this care.’

‘Medical deputising services that provide after-hours care have arisen in the context of general practitioners and general practices not providing services needed and wanted by consumers in after-hours settings.

‘Consumers should continue to be able to access MBS-funded after-hours primary healthcare, both urgent and non-urgent, from suitably qualified medical practitioners.

‘This is a basic issue of access to healthcare services, and without it people’s health will suffer, and more will end up in crowded emergency departments through lack of alternatives.

‘We think the review taskforce has erred in relying on very limited evidence in dismissing the likely impact on emergency departments if urgent after-hours services were curtailed as recommended in the preliminary report.

‘In our view the Taskforce fails to appreciate the importance of the relationship between accessible primary healthcare and demand for emergency services. It has also not given sufficient consideration to patient needs.

‘To deal with concerns about inappropriate MBS claims (e.g. claiming a case as ‘urgent’ when it is not) our suggestions to the Review are:

1. Clearly define ‘Urgent after-hours care’;
2. Triage patients seeking urgent after-hours care to an appropriate care pathway serviced by appropriately qualified medical practitioners; and
3. Monitor and enforce inappropriate use of MBS claims for urgent after-hours care.’


For more information on the AHHA, visit http://ahha.asn.au.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries: Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 0403 282 501