Top minister backs national health remedy

The federal government is on board with calls by state leaders to overhaul Australia's troubled health system and improve access to GPs, Health Minister Mark Butler says.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victorian counterpart Daniel Andrews came out in agreement this week, calling for better integration between primary care and public health systems across the country.

They say insufficient access to bulk-billing GPs is causing undue pressure on state-run services such as emergency departments.

"I don't think you'll find any premier that does not agree with the position that Dan and I have," Mr Perrottet told reporters on Thursday.

"You've got Labor and Liberal premiers working together. It's not about politics - it's about getting the best health outcomes for our people."

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the government agreed with the concerns of state leaders and shared a will for reform.

"It reflects a position that federal Labor has been making right back until quite a time before the May 2021 election," Mr Butler said.

"We said at the election that there was no higher priority for Labor in the health portfolio than strengthening Medicare and rebuilding general practice in particular.

"To have the first ministers of the nation focused on this issue is something I welcome."

He blamed cuts to Medicare over the past decade for creating a situation where going to the doctor cost more out-of-pocket than before.

"For the first time in the history of Medicare, the average gap fee for a standard GP consult is more than the Medicare rebate itself," Mr Butler said.

"That's having a real impact on the general operation of our health system."

A $750 million "Strengthening Medicare Fund" will be directed with the help of a taskforce due to deliver recommendations to the federal government over coming weeks.

Mr Butler said decisions about the investment of that fund would be reflected in the May federal budget, adding he valued contributions from premiers and from state health ministers.

Mr Perrottet chairs the Council for the Australian Federation - made up of all state and territory leaders - and said health was the number one issue raised.

On the heels of a devastating global pandemic, Mr Perrottet said now was the time for the prime minister, premiers and health ministers to work together and fix the national health system.

"It's not about going cap in hand to the federal government. I've made very clear, we're not asking for more money," he said.

"We are asking for a better federal system."

The NSW state opposition accused Mr Perrottet of washing his hands of the responsibility for the healthcare situation in NSW, with a state election approaching rapidly.

Labor's health spokesman Ryan Park said it was important for state and federal governments to work together on improving healthcare but there were actions the state government could take to improve services.

If elected, Labor promises to introduce mandatory minimum staffing levels for nurses and midwives in public hospitals, starting with emergency departments, and recruit an additional 500 paramedics to regional and rural communities.