Doctors fear the immunisation rate may drop.
Doctors fear the immunisation rate may drop. Leah-Anne Thompson

Cuts spark risk to immunisation

IMMUNISATION coverage rates in the Gympie region and throughout Australia could be at risk after a GP incentive payment was scrapped in this week's Federal Budget.

The Australian General Practice Network says the Federal Government's decision to scrap the General Practice Immunisation Incentive payment, ignores the important role general practice has played in raising immunisation rates.

AGPN chair Dr Emil Djakic said general practice had been at the cornerstone of turning around the rates of immunisation in Australia through the GPII, where coverage rates have gone from about 65% in the early 90s to 91% today.

"The GPII has enabled general practices to be innovative in their approach to immunisations, whether that be through employing nurses to administer immunisations, or monitoring uptake and gaps in immunisations with patients including the issuing of reminders," Dr Djakic said.

"This funding model has produced one of the most successful population health outcomes that Australia has ever seen.

"Changing it from what we know works to one in which there is no evidence, is very risky," he said.

Australia's outstanding immunisation record relies on a range of "push and pull" incentives and levers, including community awareness and outcome payments for practices.

"The government's budget announcement has effectively replaced the GP outcomes incentive with a sole reliance on eligibility for the Family Tax Benefit Part A, in which benefits will only be paid when immunisations are up to date for one, two and five-year-olds.

"Fundamentally, immunising the community should not be determined by socio-economic status.

"It has taken nearly 20 years of solid public health policy to get Australia's immunisation rate to over 90%," Dr Djakic said.