GP chief calls for debate on funding

Mandurah doctor Frank Jones wants to use his new role as head of Australia's peak GP group to push for wider debate on health funding, including end-of-life care.

The president-elect of the Royal Australian College of GPs said the proposed co-payment for GPs was not the answer to funding shortfalls, but it was time the community debated what services it could afford.

The 61-year-old, who works in a non-corporate private practice of 21 GPs and still does house calls, said that 8 per cent of the population avoided seeing their GP because of the potential costs and, with a co-payment, that would worsen.

"So there will be people who don't come, and when they do come they will present with more complex medical issues and that will potentially cause problems upstream at emergency departments," he said.

"But we need to have a debate about patient demands and expectations, in light of the fiscal limitations in the years to come.

"We have to start having that discussion with our patients, too, including end-of-life care issues and withdrawing treatment. I hope to take a lead on these discussions."

Dr Jones will push for better use of electronic patient records, saying the rollout of a national system of "personally controlled" health records had failed to get off the ground, missing the opportunity to link up GP and hospital records that would have made patient care safer.

Most GP surgeries used IT systems that were paperless and "years ahead" of those in hospitals, and the mismatch often resulted in patients having repeated tests.

"It makes sense to link our systems and maybe we need to start from scratch and at least have the basics like allergies on there, and we can work from there," Dr Jones said.

It was a safety issue because it was routine for GPs to see elderly patients with at least six different diagnoses and taking 12 to 20 drugs a day.

"They're often on these medications for very good reason but we have to keep a handle on it," he said.

The West Australian

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