Two new initiatives are giving general practice a helping hand in WA. The first, a combined website by The General Practice Stakeholder Group (GPS), will provide junior doctors and medical students with relevant information about how to become a general practitioner in WA, without having to double-dip into various political groups. Another is a combined front for students visiting the WA Student Medical Careers Expo (there were 180 last time), using a combined booth ‘General Practice Western Australia’ so students have a single point of entry to finding out about a career in general practice. GPS is made up of ACRRM, RACGP, AMA (WA), WAGPET, Rural Health West, WA Country Health Service, and the WA General Practice Network.
It sounds good but…
The RACGP thinks new regulations for collaborative care outlined in the Health Insurance Amendment Regulations 2010 will iron out some potential problems around collaborative care arrangements between medical practitioners, nurse practitioners and midwives. The regulations mandate that if the patient’s usual GP is not the named medical practitioner in the collaborative care arrangement, with patient consent, the nurse practitioner or midwife must give the patient’s usual GP a record of the services provided. When Medical Forum surveyed specialists about patients who shopped to get a referral from an non-usual (or is it unusual?) GP, most specialists said the patients did not want this disclosed to their usual GP out of embarrassment and suchlike. Patients will simply not name their usual GP when they sus what is happening with the nurses, as they do with specialists.
Joining hands, divesting brands
Amalgamations continue in the Pharmaceutical industry. This time, the ACCC has given the go ahead for Novartis AG to swallow up Alcon Laboratories Inc but Novartis must divest some products. In Australia, Novartis and Alcon compete in a number of pharmaceutical product markets relating to eye care (injectable miotics, contact lens preparations, artificial tears, anti-glaucoma drugs, and allergy treatments). The ACCC said the proposed acquisition would remove the only competitor to Novartis in Australia for injectable miotics – so Novartis has undertaken to these assets to Bausch & Lomb.
Pharmacists on notice
The ACCC has granted conditional authorisation for three years to the second edition of the Generic Medicines Industry Association’s (GMiA) Code of Practice, virtually stepping aside by providing three-year interim authorisation for the new Code, so it could consider more substantive applications and allow the GMiA Complaints Committee to convene to consider a recently lodged complaint against a member company under the Code. Two important ACCC conditions have been imposed on the self-regulation Code for the supply of generic medicines - extend the public reporting requirements in the Code to pharmacists (not just doctors), and include the nature and value of gifts and other non-price incentives. ‘Buy one, get one free’ type loyalty programs are well known in the pharmacy industry. See the Authorisations register at www.accc.gov.au/AuthorisationsRegister.
Yeh, right, and?
Melbourne Institute has released its 2008 findings on doctor earnings, titled What Factors Influence the Earnings of GPs and Medical Specialists in Australia? Female GPs earn 25% less than their male counterparts (worse than the national all-worker gender income gap of 20.7%), the shortage of doctors in country areas persists despite 11% higher earnings, and GPs earn 32% less than medical specialists (possibly exacerbating the GP shortage). 10,498 doctors took part.