Gaps in practice

January/February 2011

FocusGaps in practice

General practice

Workforce gaps now and in 2020

Volume 40, No.1, January/February 2011 Pages 12-15

Christopher Harrison

Helena Britt


The general practice workforce required for Australia in the future will depend on many factors, including geographic areas and patient utilisation of general practice services.


This article examines the current and future general practice workforce requirements by way of an analysis of geographic areas accounting for differing patient utilisation.


The results showed that, compared with major cities, inner regional areas had 24.4% higher expected patient general practice utilisation per general practitioner, outer regional 33.2%, and remote/very remote 21.4%. Balanced distribution would mean 1129 fewer GPs in major cities: 639 more in inner regional, 423 more in outer regional and 66 more in remote/very remote. With the population projected to increase 18.6–26.1% by 2020, expected general practice utilisation will increase by 27.0–33.1%. Initiatives addressing general practice workforce shortages should account for increasing general practice utilisation due to the aging population, or risk exacerbating the unequal distribution of general practice services.

Australia currently has a workforce shortage of general practitioners,1 particularly in rural areas.2–4 Decreasing working hours and feminisation of the workforce3,5 will exacerbate these shortages in coming years. The Australian Federal Government plans to increase general practice training places from 700 in 2010, to 1200 per year by 20146 to address this shortage.

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