Underwhelming new incentive unlikely to attract GPs to residential aged care

Published on 6 June 2024 (Last updated on 13 June 2024)

The majority of GPs say the Government’s new aged care incentive isn’t enough to attract them to residential care patients. [Shutterstock]

General Practitioners have been left with an “underwhelming” incentive to visit aged care residents but the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is still hopeful that GPs will take up the offer in high numbers.

Last December, the Government announced a new MyMedicare General Practice in Aged Care Incentive to better support GPs treating aged care residents with regular visits and care planning.

GPs must provide eight consultations and two care plans to a residential aged care patient each year to be eligible for a $300 payment that will be paid quarterly. There will be higher payments for GPs in regional and remote areas, as the Government confirmed there are rural loadings and rebates.

With the incentive coming into effect from July 1, GPs have criticised the incentive amount. A recent newsGP poll saw 54% of respondents say they would not provide aged care services regardless of the amount.

Additionally, one in three GPs said the appropriate incentive amount per patient each year would be $1,100 with just 1% happy to provide eight consultations and two care plans per year for $300.

Speaking to newsGP, RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins shared her concerns over the underwhelming incentive while highlighting the necessity for GPs in aged care. 

“It costs GPs significant money and time away from their patients to visit aged care facilities and all of the work that’s generated around their patients in aged care, so this is a start but I see this as a down payment,” she said.

“GPs have always done aged care but because this has been undervalued and underfunded, we’ve seen GPs leave aged care.

“There’s always been a social contract between GPs and their patients, but when that social contract has been devalued and defunded in the past, it has led to GPs leaving aged care when we need doctors to continue to provide continuity for their patients.”

There have been concerns over the incentive’s impact since it was first announced with some restrictions on what GPs can do reducing the benefits.

For example, telehealth can only be used in Modified Monash Model (MMM) areas 4-7 for up to four visits per year. This could result in high travel expenses for rural and regional GPs. 

One consultation per quarter can be delivered by a member of the patient’s care team who is not the GP, though, allowing for some flexibility. The triple bulk billing incentive may also be available for each bulk-billed visit to an aged care resident.

With most GPs seemingly reluctant to take on aged care patients, Dr Higgins called for the appropriate funding and support to be put in place.

“As patients get older and sicker, we need to fund general practice and primary care to keep people in their homes in the first place, and then support their transition into aged care facilities,” she told newsGP.

“There needs to be better recognition of the value general practice brings into this space and their knowledge of whole person complex care and support, as well as increased support for multidisciplinary care teams located in general practices.

“General practice is running on thin margins and GPs have subsidised aged care visits for a long time. We simply cannot afford to continue to do that and this incentive goes only part way in helping.”

general practitioner
MyMedicare General Practice in Aged Care Incentive
Nicole Higgins
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
aged care GP