The Department of Health, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) are working collaboratively to transition the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program to a College-led model.
We recognise that 2020 has been a difficult year, particularly for our medical workforce who have been the frontline in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank our registrars, our supervisors, our medical educators and all the staff in Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) who have worked tirelessly to maintain GP training in 2020.
The Government is committed to Colleges running training from selection to Fellowship. This will bring GP training into line with other medical specialist training – with GP Colleges being directly responsible for training registrars, including the work of medical educators to supplement the training provided by on-the-ground supervisors.
We are jointly considering the best approaches to deliver workforce planning and distribution support for the colleges, practices and other settings involved in training GPs, and to the communities which benefit from health services delivered during training and beyond. The Government is committed to preserving all funding under AGPT so that it not only continues to support, but enhances the GP training experience.
Earlier this year, the Colleges and the Department successfully transitioned the administration of the AGPT Program policies and selection functions. This was completed with minimal disruption in readiness for the March 2020 registrar intake.
Planning is underway to ensure future transitions of functions and activities are as smooth as possible as we continue a phased transition approach. To assist in a smooth transition, the RTOs will be extended through to the beginning of semester 1 2023 to provide GP training in their region. The RTOs will continue to provide important education, support and mentoring to their registrars and supervisors whilst they are engaged to do so and we map how we will enhance the next stage of the AGPT.
As part of the transition, the Department is keen to examine how GP training intersects with key health strategies under development, and workforce planning across multiple rural workforce and training programs. Discussions with both the Colleges have occurred and are ongoing.
Once we have a common approach, the Department and Colleges will resume consultations with broader GP training stakeholders about potential reforms and timing of implementation of reforms through the transition.
We are acutely aware that we need to support the current registrars and supervisors over the next few years and we will work together to ensure that change is managed in a way that reduces the impact on registrars and supervisors.
Opportunity for reform
A key issue raised in consultations to date, including on the draft outcomes framework, is that good on the ground experience in practices, supplemented by strong educational resources and educators, is essential.
The Department and the Colleges are committed to improving support and incentives to registrars, and their supervisors, who provide quality training to these future GPs.
We recognise that supervisors may be supervising a range of learners – medical students through to final year registrars and want to ensure appropriate and enhanced support and resources are available for vertically integrated, quality supervision. Collectively, we would like to examine how we can improve financial support to supervisors, better recognise the impact that quality training can have on practice income, and incentivise high quality GP training placements.
Collectively, we would like to make GP training a more attractive proposition for junior doctors to consider. As part of this we are considering options to make GP registrar conditions better aligned to their hospital based counterparts.
The Government is currently funding two pilots to test models that support this – one based in the Murrumbidgee that allows registrars to move between the hospital and community primary care whilst being paid a salary by the Local Health District, and another through the Remote Vocational Training Scheme which tests wage equalisation through subsidising a registrars salary in their early stages of training.
The Department would like to test AGPT models that could provide greater parity for GP registrars and make choosing GP easier for our junior doctors. This would include exploring salaried models and models that enable portability of entitlements through training.
Our joint commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Training remains central in transition planning. The Strategic Plans Program funding allocation of $9.0 million and $27.0 million Salary Support funding will continue and we look forward to working with key partners such as the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations as to how we build stronger outcomes as part of the transition.
We need to ensure that we have the right policy and funding settings to achieve the critical workforce distribution objectives of the AGPT, as well as other public investments in medical and health professional training and service learning programs.
Consultation with Stakeholders We jointly commit to working with key stakeholder groups that represent registrars, supervisors and medical educators as part of transition planning. Our commitment to minimise the disruption to registrars and supervisors remains firm – we acknowledge the recent uncertainty, but all stakeholders agree that we have a unique opportunity to consider how we can enhance and improve the training experience for GP registrars and supervisors.