The Federal Government's practice nurse subsidy should be offered to all general practices in Australia, AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today.
"Family doctors want to look after their patients as best they can, and they're figuring out ways to provide the best possible health care at a time when Australia's short on doctors," Dr Haikerwal said.
"Integrating nurses into general practice makes sense to them and it should make sense to the Government to support this shift - not just for GPs operating in areas where there aren't enough doctors but for GPs everywhere."
The Government offers a practice nurse incentive payment in areas of medical workforce shortage - currently about 2,350 general practices are entitled to the payment.
"That's a great start but practice nurses are becoming a standard part of your average general practice," Dr Haikerwal said.
"The incentive payment should be available to the 5,670 other general practices in Australia, any and all of which may find a practice nurse is a valuable addition to their patient care team."
Visiting a general practice in Adelaide during Family Doctor Week, Dr Haikerwal highlighted the importance of keeping doctors at the helm of health care teams and supporting the inclusion of practice nurses in those teams.
"The AMA sees general practice nurses as an integral part of the health care team," Dr Haikerwal said.
"The current Medicare system does not properly value the important contribution practice nurses make to GP patient health care and the AMA is calling for better recognition of the important role nurses play in the general practice team."
In 2004/05, Australians accessed 2.7 million services provided by practice nurses, who operate under instructions from GPs.
"This year that figure's likely to reach closer to four million," Dr Haikerwal said.
"It's obvious that a more team-oriented approach to health care - with the family doctor at the core of that team - is becoming the norm in this country. We're calling on the Government to recognise and support that shift with real dollars and cents."