APNA: announcement on health assessments ‘devastating’

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) today voiced its dismay regarding the Government’s announcement that the time general practice nurses spend contributing to health assessments cannot be legally claimed under the health assessment MBS items.

“This announcement will have a devastating impact on the ability of general practice to provide high quality preventive care,” said APNA President Karen Booth. “Preventing practices from claiming for nurse time will reduce access for patients, and add to the costs of delivering healthcare in this country.”

Health assessments are the first and very important step in delivering coordinated chronic disease care in general practice. Nurses perform much of the work required for health assessments for children, people at risk of chronic disease, and elderly people; and to stay viable, general practices need to be able to claim for this time.

“Our phones are already running hot at APNA, with general practices and nurses voicing their alarm at the announcement,” said Karen Booth. “Practices will now be forced to either utilise GPs to undertake the whole of the health assessment, which will have massive implications in terms of access for patients and overall costs to the system; or some practices might stop doing health assessments altogether. Either alternative is really unfortunate. As well as the impact on patients, many nurses could lose their jobs.”

“The loss of preventive health activity, with the general practice nurse playing an integral role, will have repercussions with missed health issues, lost opportunities for early intervention, and more downstream hospital admissions with complications arising from those missed opportunities,” said Ms Booth.

“There will also be major impacts on care for the elderly in the community. Home visits are the preferred method for aged health assessments and for observing elderly people managing in their own environment. Without the ability to include nurse time, home visits for aged health assessments will just not be viable, and our ability to keep older people well and living at home is undermined,” said Ms Booth.

APNA calls on the Government to urgently amend the MBS item descriptors relating to health assessments, to allow GPs to bill for general practice nurse involvement, thereby supporting quality preventive care by multidisciplinary teams.

Download this media release: APNA brands announcement on health assessments “devastating”

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