Date published: 
23 June 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Australian doctors are the best in the world. They are doing a tremendous job and they help Australians protect against pain and chronic illness. One of the things we’re doing with the medical community is to ensure that we have control over the opioid use in Australia. We know that 2000 people lost their lives over a five-year period to opioid abuse, whether it’s oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl.

But the AMA and the College of GPs are working with us to make sure that doctors know exactly how many prescriptions they’ve been giving, whether or not they are at the outer edges of prescriptions and therefore they can better moderate and regulate their own actions to protect patients.

I’m also delighted to announce that the Australian Government will inject $80 million into community mental health. That will be matched by each and every state and territory, so $160 million all up. That’s an agreement with all eight states and territories to boost community health funding, and I thank all the states and territories, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to make this contribution.

JOURNALIST:

But this list, is this- how does it work? Is it going to try and maybe stop doctors in their tracks from prescribing (inaudible)?

GREG HUNT:

So we’ve written to the top 20 per cent of opioid prescribers. It’s been done with the cooperation and support of the AMA and the College of GPs. This means that they’re working to ensure that all doctors know where they sit, whether or not they may have inadvertently become over-prescribers, but the vast and overwhelming majority of Australian doctors do the right thing, and overwhelmingly we have the best doctors in the world.

JOURNALIST:

Some of the numbers are extraordinary. The Telegraph is reporting 60- there’s one case of a country doctor who’s prescribed 68,000 doses over a ten-month period and a city doctor with 56,000. Are those numbers- any comment on those numbers?

GREG HUNT:

Those numbers are accurate and they are being considered by the Department of Health. Now, there may be particular reasons. It could be people who are working in palliative care or with chronic pain. But by having this advice to- the doctors who are at the higher end of the prescribing list, I think that’s extremely important and very, very powerful.

JOURNALIST:

Are they over-prescribed?

GREG HUNT:

I’ll leave that to the Chief Medical Officer, but the Chief Medical Officer and the AMA have strongly supported this device which will give Australian doctors the best advice in the world to- so as they can remain the best and the safest doctors in the world.

JOURNALIST:

Is this all inspired by the crackdown on opioids in the US?

GREG HUNT:

Well, we don’t want to end up in the place that the United States is in where opioids are a national crisis. Here, we are in a much better position. But frankly 400 deaths a year is a completely unacceptable number. And so we are going to work to continue to bring that number down and I thank the medical profession for their cooperation.

JOURNALIST:

And if this letter doesn’t work and doctors continue to prescribe, will they be struck off?

GREG HUNT:

Well there are a series of different options that are available including the Department of Health or the Professional Services Review. I am very hopeful that we won’t need to take those steps.

I might just add something on the ALP discussions. Overnight, we’ve seen that the ALP has a war on business, but now there’s a war within the ALP. Mr Albanese is now in open warfare with his leader, Mr Shorten, who is in open warfare with business.

Thank you, alright.