08 December 2023

Let’s cut red tape holding back overseas GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on the federal Government to streamline processes and make it easier for overseas doctors to live and work in Australia.

It comes following the release of the Independent review of overseas health practitioner regulatory settings conducted by Robyn Kruk AO (“the Kruk report”).

The RACGP has already demonstrated leadership and committed to simplifying its own processes for overseas doctors, and President Dr Nicole Higgins has called on the Government to do the same.

“I welcome the release of this long-awaited report,” she said.

"Addressing GP workforce issues is essential in ensuring that all patients in all corners of Australia can access the care they need when they need it. The report’s number one recommendation on streamlining processes across agencies and regulators so that applicants only need to provide information and meet requirements once is just what the doctor ordered. If we don’t act decisively, more overseas doctors will opt for other countries overseas and we will miss out.”

Dr Higgins said that the College will carefully examine and consider other recommendations featured in the report.

“Boosting workforce numbers is crucial; however, we must proceed carefully on several fronts,” she said.

“The RACGP is opposed to transferring all or part of the comparability assessments from the specialty colleges to the Australian Medical College. Whilst we as a College have committed to simplifying and streamlining our own processes to make it easier to get overseas doctors living and working in communities around Australia, maintaining safety and quality is a critical priority.  

“Recognising skills and experience in addition to qualifications and training pathways for registration sounds promising. However, we would need to see a lot more detail, and this would need to be approached carefully to ensure patient safety. I think it would be appropriate to put some safeguards in place. The report focusses on conditions on registration used as a temporary risk mitigation strategy where appropriate. That is an approach that could work; however, again we will need to see all the details.”

RACGP Vice President and Rural Chair Associate Professor Michael Clements backed Dr Higgins’ calls.

“Let’s not let this report gather dust, we need action. By cutting onerous red tape we can get more GPs into communities that need them sooner, and that includes rural and remote areas which disproportionately rely on overseas doctors,” he said.

“Easing the administrative burden can’t come soon enough. Ask almost any GP or practice manager outside of a major city and they will tell you that the process of bringing in a GP from overseas and setting them up to actually help patients can be a tortuous experience. In fact, it can take up to two years and this time-consuming process leaves many practices desperately short of GPs. It’s no shock that you have governments offering sums of up to $750,000 for an experienced GP to work in rural communities.

“This must be a priority for the Government in the months and years ahead because it is simply too difficult to find a GP in many corners of Australia, particularly in rural and remote areas. No patients anywhere should be left behind.”

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