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Tara Cosoleto

More GP funding needed for nation's health

Australia's peak body for GPs says general practice care is in crisis. (Alan Porritt/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Doctor's fees will rise and general practices will close across the country unless government boosts investment in the sector, Australia's peak body for GPs says.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on Wednesday released its annual Health of the Nation report, which showed the GP workforce is stalling and Medicare rebates aren't keeping up with care costs.

Only 13.8 per cent of future doctors are choosing general practice as their career compared to 16.1 per cent last year, the report states.

A quarter of current GPs are planning to retire in the next five years, with close to half reporting it's financially unsustainable for them to continue working.

"The future of general practice care is in crisis and it's not of our making," the college's president Professor Karen Price said in a statement.

"If general practice were a patient, I would say that it had several serious underlying health conditions that if not properly addressed will lead to grim outcomes."

Only three per cent of GPs stated the current Medicare rebate is sufficient to cover the cost of care, while 77 per cent said ensuring compliance with Medicare takes time away from treating patients.

Close to half of GPs either avoid providing certain services or claiming patient rebates out of fear of Medicare compliance ramifications, the report says.

The government needed to "cut the red tape" around Medicare so GPs can focus on providing support to patients, Prof Price said.

"What we have are highly trained skilled professionals who know what they are doing being harassed with robo-audits.

"The odd bad apple should of course be subject to rigorous compliance action but the near constant looking over the shoulder of GPs must stop."

Along with changing the Medicare process, the college is also calling for a clearer and more sustainable general practice funding model.

"More needs to be done to make sure this profession is adequately supported and valued," Prof Price said.

"Until that occurs, future doctors will continue to opt for other specialities and more and more GPs will throw their hands in the air and quit.

"The ball is in the government's court and action is needed right away. Unless that occurs, the health of the nation will deteriorate."

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