The time we waste calling the PBS Authority Line and others

Ours is a small Practice – at most 2.5 FTE GP and no Allied Health support. It is therefore staggering to calculate the hours that we spend on the phone to various organisations

(and these are only the figures from our main outgoing line – I could not be bothered looking up the other four lines that mostly deal with incoming calls):

Calls to the PBS authority line

(Only doctors make these calls – usually after hours when everyone else have gone home):

2011 – 747 min

2012 – 870 min

2013 – 846 min (of which a staggering 140 min was during December 2013)

Then we start adding up the phonecalls made by staff and doctors

(again only the ones I could identify in a quick search – many more not mentioned including all those calls to patients):


2011                        872  m

2012                       994   m

2013                     1043   m

Labs & imaging

2011                    1246  m

2012                    1075   m

2013                    1381   m


2011                      301  m

2012                      185  m

2013                      107  m


2011                        177  m

2012                         65  m

2013                        133  m

The last time we increased our fees was in 2011 and we bulkbill around 40% of our work whilst at least a further 40% are heavily discounted. The snapshot above is but a small representation of the overheads that we have to carry which really makes a mockery of the “rich doctor” myth

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5 Responses to The time we waste calling the PBS Authority Line and others

  1. Thinus, you mention making calls to the authority line after everyone is gone – do you batch up all your authority script requests and then just call up and do them all in one hit? If you do this, do you then post the script out to the patient or fax to the pharmacy?

  2. Thinus says:

    We use an internal messaging system and the staff are forced to send all non-urgent communication via this. It means that I may have up to 50 (or more) messages flasshing at the bottom of my screen at the end of a day. This could relate to anything and it is hard to batch scripts up with this system. I do however try to do this as far as possible though. Scripts get collected by patients and the great majority get charged a fee (currently $ 7.50 which is much less than than the average charged around here) when they collect the script. Exceptions are some old and frail patients whose scripts are usually in Websters – theirs usually just get faxed and/or mailed

  3. 23 May 2014


    Under the Australian Government’s National Medicines Policy framework, the Department of Health is conducting a Post-market Review of Authority Required PBS Listings. The objective of the Review is to improve patient safety and care by reducing red tape and administrative burden for health professionals.

    The need for a review of the PBS Authority System was identified in the Review of Chemotherapy Funding Arrangements, where it was found that Authority Required listings caused significant regulatory burden to prescribing medical oncologists. There are currently 447 phone or complex authority required listings on the PBS. As part of the announcement of the outcomes of the Chemotherapy Review on 30 November 2013, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to review the Authority Required for PBS Listings.

    This Review will build on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee’s (PBAC) consideration of a submission from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) that recommended the movement of a number of medicines from Authority Required to Authority Required (Streamlined). The PBAC agreed that there was a merit to a review of Authority Required listings and built on the AMA’s proposal by recommending that all Authority Required listings be reviewed. This would ensure that restrictions appropriately reflect the level of monitoring required to manage the quality use of medicines and the identified risks.

    Scope of the Review

    This Review will consider criteria to determine Authority Required listings, and review all Authority Required listings, with the objective of reducing the administrative burden on prescribers and dispensers of PBS listed medicines. The Authority Required listings will be identified and reviewed in groups targeting those that create the greatest regulatory burden with the first priority area being Authority Required listings relating to the use of drugs in cancer.

    Terms of Reference

    Review the criteria used by the PBAC to determine if a medicine should be recommended as Authority Required or Authority Required (Streamlined) on the PBS.
    Systematically review the current Authority Required listings according to the proposed criteria to ensure this is applied consistently to all PBS Authority listed medicines.

    Public Consultation on Terms of Reference

    As announced by the Minister for Health, the Review will be undertaken in stages to allow the timely assessment and implementation of changes to the PBS authority system commencing with oncology treatments (Cancer drugs). On Tuesday 27 May a schedule for the staggered consultation period on different classes of drugs and types of authorities will be published.

    Next Steps

    The Review will follow the Post-market Review process and will be undertaken with input from key stakeholders including the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Medicines Australia and consumer representatives. The findings will be presented to the PBAC in a step-wise approach and then to Government for consideration.

    Further Information

    Further information regarding Post-market Reviews is available through the Reviews page.

    Subscribe to news updates for the latest information regarding reviews, including public consultation, and publication of review.

  4. Good to see that the GP issues with the authority script system have been almost ignored in favour of the oncologists’ issues. I wonder how many narcotic and palliative scripts GPs write compared to oncologists?

    • Thinus says:

      Spot on Nick – the usual sleigh of hand – the “review” will probably end up with very little changes for GPs (where their bread & butter is affected by this) and life being made much easier for the hospital based docs who work for a salary that they get regardless of whether they sit on a phone or see a patient. Either way it will not impact on patient care either way.

      Same sleigh of hand that saw GP rebates being reduced in the Budget while Specialist rebates remained the same

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