Australia could follow UK into health care crisis

THE peak body for doctors claims Australians could face a similar health crisis to what is being seen in the UK unless the federal government softens its stance on its Medicare changes.

The Australian Medical Association says the UK's National Health Service is in crisis as patients swamp emergency departments, causing blow-outs in waiting times and forcing hospitals to cancel operations.

Changes to Medicare unveiled last month included a $20 cut to the Medicare rebate for GP Level B consultations lasting less than 10 minutes, from $37.05 to $16.95.

The changes come into effect on January 19.

AMA vice-president Stephen Parnis said on Tuesday similar scenes could be repeated here unless the Federal Government stops its "attack" on general practice.

"If people cannot get in to see their GP they will often end up at hospital, increasing to the pressure on already-strained emergency departments and greatly adding to the government's health bill," Dr Parnis said.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten seized the opportunity while on the campaign trail ahead of the upcoming Queensland state election in his ongoing attempt to link federal issues with state issues.

"What the rebate reductions mean in plain English is fewer Queensland doctors will be bulk-billing," Mr Shorten said.

"More Queenslanders will have to wait when they are sick and will end up going into the medical system later when they are sicker."