5.           Principles for after-hours services provision

The Taskforce recommends that the following principles should underpin MBS funding of after-hours services generally and urgent after-hours services in particular:

  1. After-hours GP services are essential services, highly valued by consumers, and no measures should be introduced which would impact adversely on their responsible provision by appropriately qualified health professionals.
  2. Urgent after-hours GP services should only be provided in genuinely urgent situations.
  3. The MBS fees for urgent after-hours services should reflect the complexity of the service and the lifestyle disruption and other imposts incurred by GPs who provide urgent after-hours services in addition to their normal in-hours workload.
  4. Ideally, after-hours services should be provided by GPs who have a relationship with the patient’s usual general practice, facilitating quality and continuity of care.
  5. After-hours services provided by medical deputising services have an important role in ensuring patients have access to necessary after-hours services, recognising that it is not feasible for all general practices to offer comprehensive after-hours care.
  6. Providers of MBS-funded urgent after-hours services should not market these services by prioritising convenience and low (or no) cost over clinical need.
  7. The rebate structure for after-hours services should not provide perverse incentives to divert services from in-hours to out-of-hours or to drive utilisation that is not commensurate with clinical need.