10 May 2023

The strong focus on primary care, with the tripling of the bulk billing incentive and investment in the health workforce to better meet the health needs of the Australians in the 21st century, were among the welcome features of Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

South Western Sydney Primary Health Network (SWSPHN) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Kristen Short, said there was little doubt primary care had been struggling in recent years, with fewer practices in a position to bulk bill, further highlighting the need for strong and ongoing funding commitment for the sector.

“The $3.5 billion committed to bulk billing incentives, $98.2 million for new Medicare rebates for patients who require consultations of longer than 60 minutes and $445.1 million to support team-based care in general practice, are welcome measures to support the revival and protection of a healthcare system which has served us well for decades,” she said.

Other investments of interest to primary care, in particular general practices in South Western Sydney include:

  • $358.5 million for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics
  • $143.9 million for after hours primary care
  • $91.5 million to improve mental health by addressing workforce shortages

Ms Short said SWSPHN had a particular focus on innovative projects like iRAD, the New to General Practice Nursing program and My Care Partners to build capacity and support our general practices in delivering accessible, effective and timely care to our community.

She noted investment in digital health ($951.2 million); increasing the number of nurses in primary care ($10.7 million); and increasing incentives for general practices to employ a range of health professionals to provide team-based primary care ($445.1 million) would support those projects which were already improving the health of our region.

“Primary care is the cornerstone of our healthcare system, and SWSPHN looks forward to continuing to work with and support primary care providers across our region on the projects, services and other activities funded in this budget.

“We particularly welcome the focus in the budget on multidisciplinary team care and voluntary patient enrolment and look forward to seeing how it complements our local medical neighbourhood model of care, My Care Partners, which has been working for the past two years to reduce avoidable hospital admissions and enhance care coordination for people with multiple chronic diseases.”

Budget at a glance

More bulk billing, more affordable care

$3.5 billion in bulk billing incentives

The government is tripling the bulk billing incentives to address the sharp decline in bulk billing during the past few years. Incentives will cover many common GP consultations, including telehealth and videoconference – making care more affordable, particularly for children, pensioners and other Commonwealth concession card holders.

Making common medicines cheaper

GPs and nurse practitioners will be able to prescribe two months’ worth of some PBS medicines, meaning fewer visits to the pharmacist and fewer prescription co-payments for more than 300 common PBS medicines. This will save patients an estimated $1.6 billion and free up millions of GP appointments. Every dollar saved by the government from this reform will be reinvested back into community pharmacy to provide clinical services.

Making it easier to get the care you need

$358.5 million for Medicare Urgent Care Clinics

This will free up overstretched GPs, take pressure off hospitals and improve access to affordable care. Eight new Medicare Urgent Care Clinics will be fully resourced and operating this year, open for longer hours and with no out-of-pocket cost for patients. This takes the total number of clinics around the country to 58, including a clinic at Campbelltown.

$143.9 million for after hours primary care

Primary Health Networks will be supported to focus on access to primary care for vulnerable communities, with a $93.4 million investment to extend the PHN After Hours programs for another two years, ensuring people can access general practice services when they need them. They will also be funded to commission services to improve access to primary care for multicultural communities and for people experiencing homelessness ($50.5 million over two years).


This is a new voluntary scheme to create a stronger relationship between patients and their primary care teams. Patients can enrol with a general practice registered with MyMedicare to get better continuity of care and easier access to telehealth consultations. MyMedicare will provide practices with more comprehensive information about their regular patients, while giving patients and their care team access to additional funding packages, tailored to their health needs. MyMedicare will also support longer GP telehealth consultations with reduced administration for practices ($5.9 million); provide new funding packages for general practices to provide comprehensive care to patients who are frequent hospital users ($98.9 million); and for Australians in residential aged care ($112.0 million).

$98.2 million for new Medicare rebates

Patients who require consultations of longer than 60 minutes will receive a larger Medicare rebate – giving doctors support to provide high quality care to people with chronic or complex needs, including mental health issues.

$47.8 million for wound care

Patients with diabetes and chronic wounds, in particular, will benefit from additional funding to improve access to more affordable, high-quality wound care.

$445.1 million to expand general practice

The government is increasing incentives (through the Workforce Incentive Payment) for general practices to employ a range of health professionals to provide team-based primary care. Smaller practices will also be able to complement their teams with the services of allied health professionals or nurses who have been commissioned by Primary Health Networks ($79.4 million).

$951.2 million for digital health

The Australian Digital Health Agency will upgrade and modernise My Health Record, making it easier for patients and providers to use and support the secure, safe and efficient sharing of information. This will improve health outcomes for patients and reduce duplication in the system.

A growing workforce with more support for health workers

$4.5 million for expansion of Single Employer Model trials

This funding for GP registrars in regional, rural and remote locations, will enable them to deliver services in various community-based medical practices without losing employment benefits as they move between employers.

$10.7 million for primary care placements

The government will increase the number of nurses in primary care by funding an extra 6,000 clinical placements over four years. Funding will also support 500 nurses to return to the workforce, and the availability of courses for nurses to transition to primary care practice will be expanded.

$46.8 million to fund Medicare rebates for care provided by nurse practitioners

This rebate will increase by 30 per cent. Nurse practitioners and participating midwives will also be able to prescribe PBS medicines and services under Medicare. This will make care more accessible and affordable for Australians, particularly in rural and regional areas.

$586.9 million for mental health and suicide prevention

This includes:

  • Extension of terminating child and youth mental health measures – $6.9 million over two years
  • Extension of terminating eating disorders measures – $2.8 million in 2023–24
  • Ensuring continuity of psychosocial support for people with mental illness – $260.2 million over two years
  • Mental health support for humanitarian entrants and culturally and linguistically diverse communities – $136 million over four years
  • Longer-term mental health support for Australians impacted by disaster events – $7.2 million over two years
  • Digital mental health services – $8.7 million in 2023–24
  • Addressing critical shortages in the psychology workforce – $91.3 million over five years
  • Upskilling Australia’s broader health workforce in mental health – $17.8 million over four years

Vaping, tobacco control and stronger preventative health

$247.4 million to tackle smoking and vaping

A new anti-smoking and anti-vaping campaign will be rolled out, along with more information and support to help people quit. The successful Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program will be extended and expanded to vaping.

$502.2 million for stronger preventative health

A new national lung cancer screening program targeting those most at risk is predicted to prevent more than 4,000 deaths in Australia. The budget also builds the capacity and capability of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to better support cancer care needs and improve the health outcomes of First Nations people.

$68.3 million for better drug and alcohol prevention and treatment

The government is extending programs, including those providing screening and counselling, funding essential diagnostic services for Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and providing further support for renal services, including dialysis in First Nations communities.

Older Australians

My Medicare

Under MyMedicare, patients with complex, chronic disease who go to hospital 10 or more times each year will be supported by the comprehensive, team-based and tailored care they need, without needing to go to a hospital ($98.9 million).

Australians living in an aged care home will receive more regular visits, health assessments and care planning through additional incentive payments to GPs and primary care clinics under MyMedicare ($112 million). Residents can choose their preferred provider or choose to be matched to a suitable one by their local Primary Health Network.

Home Care Packages

Older Australians who want to live independently at home will be supported to do so with an additional 9,500 Home Care Packages ($166.8 million).

First Nationals people

First Nations cancer patients will be able to access culturally safe, respectful and responsive cancer care, through both Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and mainstream cancer care services ($238.5 million). Up to 260 new positions will be created to deliver cancer treatment and other supports such as health promotion activities, support for patients to navigate cancer care following diagnosis, and access to treatment and care on Country.