Workforce shortage issues for GPs

14 March 2014

I write as Chair of United General Practice Australia (UGPA) to express concern regarding workforce shortage issues for general practice.

As you are aware, the Medical Workforce 2012 report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showed a decline in the proportion of medical practitioners (GPs) in Australia. For the first time we have more specialists in Australia than general practitioners. In addition GPs have the highest average age of any specialty with 38% of the workforce now aged over 55.

These statistics highlight the need to strengthen the GP workforce. GPs provide high quality care and play a fundamental role in keeping the costs of the health system sustainable. We need to aim for a better balance between the GP and other specialist workforce so that the community can continue to access care in the right clinical setting and unnecessary costs can be avoided. 

UGPA is urging the Government to commit to general practice in the upcoming Federal budget by:

  • investing in the expansion of programs that provide International Medical Graduates (IMGs) with adequate supervision and support
  • increasing community - based general practice placements for prevocational doctors to accommodate the increased number of medical graduates
  • increasing general practice vocational training numbers to a minimum of 1700 per annum by 2017, to accommodate the increased numbers of prevocational doctors.

Whilst members of UGPA acknowledge the Government’s recent investment in rural infrastructure grants and the increase in the number of training places, we believe there still remains a need for the provision of adequate and appropriate supervision to facilitate high quality training.

Australia is still reliant on International Medical Graduates to provide services to some of our most isolated and difficult rural communities. IMGs require support and supervision currently provided to only a small number through General Practice Education and Training’s (GPETs) Overseas Trained Doctors National Education and Training Program (OTDnet). The OTDnet not only provides an educational program designed to prepare overseas trained doctors for assessment (by the RACGP or ACRRM) to achieve Fellowship, but also enables registrants to prepare for exam and assessment requirements. An expansion of OTDnet would be an important step forward in assisting IMGs provide safe and effective healthcare that Australian patients have confidence in.

To that end, UGPA urges the Government to consider:

  • expanding GP training supervision capacity through targeted investment
  • improving infrastructure to facilitate high quality training in general practice
  • provision of additional funding to IMGs through the OTDnet.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these recommendations. Members of UGPA look forward to receiving a response in due course.