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Newcastle Herald

'It's early days': Labor plans to honour GP Access After Hours funding once party settles in

Hope: Hunter Primary Care CEO Brenda Ryan hopes Labor's funding promise for GP Access After Hours comes to fruition. Picture: Marina Neil

RESTORING full funding to GP Access After Hours won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

That is the message from Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon who says it is the intention of Albanese's Labor government to deliver on the health promises made during the election campaign.

In the Hunter, these included restoring funding to GP Access After Hours, to aid doctor recruitment by returning Distribution Priority Area status to the region's general practices, and establishing an urgent care clinic in Cessnock.

"We do need a health minister, and we need one to be sworn in first," Ms Claydon said. "But it is our intention to honour those commitments as soon as humanly possible."

Ms Claydon said Mark Butler, who was the shadow health minister, was "acutely aware" of the health needs of the Hunter and the commitments of the election campaign.

"Mark Butler has been fully and personally briefed on all of these issues, and he was here reiterating them again just days before the election," she said. "All the members in this region are strongly commited to the GP Access After Hours service, because it has such a big footprint in all of our electorates.

"There will be a lot of loud voices, in addition to mine, to make sure this happens in Canberra."

Labor MPs ran a petition to save GP Access.

Hunter Primary Care, which runs the GP Access After Hours service, is yet to receive any confirmation of funding given it was just days since the federal election.

The funding reductions were the result of the withdrawal of $560,000 in recurrent funding from NSW Health, combined with an ongoing lack of indexation from the Commonwealth.

Brenda Ryan, the chief executive of Hunter Primary Care, said demand for the after hours service had increased since the closure of the Calvary Mater clinic - and the reduction of hours at other sites - in December.

"A lot of our appointments are booked out by 5.30pm," she said.

But even if funding was restored tomorrow, a lot of "behind-the-scenes" work would still need to be done before the GP Access After Hours service could reopen at its former capacity.

"We haven't had any formal confirmation regarding any funding for GP Access After Hours yet, and I wouldn't think we'd hear anything for the coming weeks while they get organised," Ms Ryan said.

"We know it's a good community service and well respected by the community, so of course we'd like the funding to be recurrent.

"But it's not a case of simply reopening - there is a lot of things in play, like workforce, and reinstating anything takes time. It won't be a case of it just popping back up again - there's a lot to consider.

"But we will do everything we possibly can to hopefully reinstate the clinics back to the opening times they were at pre-December last year."