01 August 2023

RACGP to simplify processes for international medical graduates to boost GP workforce

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) will simplify its processes for international medical graduates (IMGs) to get more GPs into communities that need them sooner.

The RACGP has committed to make its assessment and accreditation processes easier for applicants, while maintaining safety and quality, as part of its response to Robyn Kruk’s interim report on regulatory settings for overseas practitioners.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said IMGs are an important part of Australia’s general practice workforce.

“The RACGP has been advocating to make it easier and more attractive for international medical graduates to come to Australia, to get more GPs into communities that need them,” she said.

“But we also know that, as a medical college which assesses and accredits IMGs to practice in Australia, we can help to make their journey easier.

“We’ve spent time listening to our members with overseas qualifications who’ve gone through our processes to identify what can be improved, and we’ve committed to doing what we can to make it simpler, less onerous, and more streamlined.

“There are many measures we’re considering that will help get more international medical graduates helping Australian communities sooner, including simplifying assessments, and reducing the minimum time for their training.

“However, we are warning strongly against Ms Kruk’s recommendation that comparability assessments – which determine if a specialist IMG is competent and safe to practice in Australia – are transitioned to the Australian Medical Council. The inquiry into the ‘Dr Death’ case at Bundaberg Base Hospital made clear the risks to patient safety when specialist colleges don’t have responsibility for assessing specialist IMGs. We cannot risk this happening again.

“Our response to Ms Kruk’s report also stresses that training and comparability assessments must consider where IMGs work, because practicing in a rural area is very different to an urban area. Rural doctors need to have the right skills and ability to work independently because there is often less support available, as well as cultural safety training.  

“We largely support the report’s other recommendations, including a single portal for applications, the removal of labour market testing for employers sponsoring visas for priority practitioners, broadening age exemptions for permanent skilled visas to include key practitioners, and continued workforce support and demand modelling.

“International medical graduates make up around 50% of Australia’s rural medical workforce. They make a valuable contribution to the communities in which they work and live. There is much more we can do to make their journey here easier, and ensure they have the support to thrive, and I look forward to doing all I can as RACGP President to make this happen.”

Robyn Kruk AO is expected to deliver her final report to the Government in the near future.

Media enquiries

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