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Working together for a secure future

21/12/2021 Written by Dr Karen Price

This article is over 2 years old

Working together for a secure future

In less than 14 months, the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program will transition to the two colleges of general practice – the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the RACGP.
To provide stability and facilitate a smooth transition to profession-led training in NSW and the ACT, the RACGP and GP Synergy are seeking to enter into a strategic partnership to enable the college to become GP Synergy’s sole member.
The reality we face is that from February 2023, GP Synergy will no longer hold the contract to deliver the AGPT Program.  
GP Synergy are seeking their members’ support for this transition pathway as they see it as being the most meaningful and positive way they can transition to profession-led training for their 1945 registrars and more than 1900 supervisors in NSW and the ACT.
The RACGP Board agreed to pursue this proposed partnership only after careful consideration and discussions between the organisations. We are focused on ensuring there are no changes or disruptions to registrars or any negative impacts to the RACGP or ACRRM AGPT programs.
While this strategy is viewed as being the most suitable and successful strategy for a smooth transition in NSW and the ACT, other Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) may choose alternative strategies.
GP Synergy has been engaging with both ACRRM and RACGP since the transition to profession-led training was announced in 2017 by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
This engagement has increased considerably over the past 12–18 months. During this time, the RACGP has made our intentions to work with RTOs clear from the outset. That remains the case.
Each college is also approaching the transition from a unique starting base. ACRRM is experienced in delivering general practice training; it is currently successfully delivering the national Independent Pathway Program and the new Rural Generalist Training Program.
The RACGP, alternatively, has not delivered GP fellowship training for more than 20 years. We need to upgrade to take on a huge scale of educational operational delivery beyond the current Practice Experience Program or PEP.
A delay will risk this ability to operationalise one of the most important transitions in RACGP history. This proposed strategic partnership helps to build that capacity and will minimise disruption to AGPT registrars, supervisors, and primary healthcare provision.
In 2021, 1829 of the 1945 GP Synergy registrars – 94% – are pursuing the RACGP Fellowship pathway, including 90% of all rural pathway registrars in the community.
The training environment in NSW and the ACT is complex and significant. One third of AGPT Program delivery is undertaken in these jurisdictions.
NSW has had a turbulent history, with more mergers and regional training providers than any other state or territory. However, stability has been achieved over the past six years with GP Synergy as the sole RTO delivering the AGPT Program.   
The RACGP’s commitment to regional, rural, and remote communities is unwavering. Of our more than 45,000 members, almost 10,000 are registered GPs in rural and remote Australia.
As one of two colleges committed to ensuring high-quality rural and remote primary healthcare provision across Australia, it is essential the transition to profession-led training by the RACGP and ACCRM is successful in every state and territory. 
GP Synergy has a strong history of delivering training to ACRRM’s registrars. In 2022, through the AGPT contract, GP Synergy will continue to capitalise on its corporate knowledge and experienced staff to deliver ACRRM training at the highest standard.
GP Synergy will continue to work closely with ACRRM to understand and be receptive to their needs during the transition process.
This is not about the RACGP versus ACCRM or a turf war of any sorts – far from it. 
This is about building a new way forward for all registrars and for all communities across Australia. We understand the rural healthcare environment and under no circumstances would anything be done that risks this vital area of healthcare delivery.
We are proposing a new way forward with ACRRM that respects our differences and supports each college to deliver for Australia.
I understand that ACRRM has concerns with respect to the transparency and implications of the partnership between GP Synergy and RACGP.
However, ACCRM can rest assured that these concerns are front of mind and being taken extremely seriously to ensure nothing untoward occurs. This is of the highest priority to the RACGP in this partnership with GP Synergy.
Following the conclusion of GP Synergy’s AGPT contract at the end of 2022, the RACGP will not have access to ACRRM’s intellectual property relating to their training programs and registrars.
GP Synergy will continue to ensure ACRRM has access to this information and will ensure a smooth transfer of information at the conclusion of the AGPT contract, including the disposal of confidential records.
The strictest of protocols will be put in place to ensure that RACGP appointees to the Board of GP Synergy understand that they cannot share any information about ACRRM gained during their directorship with GP Synergy.
There will be no material benefit of this proposed partnership for the RACGP after February 2023.
At this time the Commonwealth Department of Health will determine the disbursement of assets belonging to the department and the AGPT program in line with their plans for the training program transition. Any remaining equity from the organisation will be utilised to maintain the work of GP Synergy’s research and evaluations unit.
At the RACGP, we understand that stability in the transition process is essential and working closely with GP Synergy will achieve this.

We enjoyed a productive meeting on Monday (20 December) with Rural Health Commissioner Professor Ruth Stewart, and will continue to collaborate with ACRRM to achieve the best outcomes for Australian communities as we work on a positive way forward.

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