11 April 2024

Don’t repeat UK health system failures here: RACGP

The Albanese Government’s Scope of Practice review must support the vital role of GPs at the heart of primary care and avoid repeating the abject failures of the United Kingdom’s health system, says the Royal Australian College of GPs. 

Australia’s peak GP body warned politicians strongly against adopting the UK’s disastrous model and said expanding the scope of GPs and practice teams can both improve access to care and reduce costs, in a submission to the review

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said: "Our members are very concerned the current review appears to be giving serious consideration to a model of care that would reproduce the failures of the UK health system. 

“Rather than investing in general practice, the UK model fragmented the system, pushing the work of GPs onto health professionals without medical training. They prioritised convenience and focused on single diseases, instead of the whole person. This is not an efficient use of a health workforce and limited health resources. 

“And it has been frankly disastrous, with worse health outcomes, unhappy patients, and GPs fleeing – the number of UK-trained doctors in Australia increased a staggering 67% from 2013 to 2021.  

A report found UK health professionals without the required training have been missing life threatening diagnoses. And the King’s Fund was scathing, finding the UK government’s failure to grow and invest in primary and community health and care services ranks as one of the most significant and long-running policy failures of the NHS. It also said the way their health workforce is trained and organised doesn’t meet the complexity of people’s health needs in the UK. We mustn’t make the same mistakes here. 

“Australia’s politicians must recognise and invest in the role of GPs at the heart of primary care – GPs keep Australians, and our health system healthy. Everyone’s primary care team needs a GP, and any health reforms must support this." 

The RACGP President said the College consulted widely with members for the review and is advocating strongly to strengthen general practice care for the profession and patients across Australia. 

“This is significant reform and it’s critical that government hears GPs and gets it right for Australians,” she said. 

“We’re advocating strongly to explain the role of GPs at the heart of primary care. Not everyone understands what we do, but the value of GPs is clear – the evidence shows GPs help people live healthier and stay out of hospital. 

“The best quality and value primary care for patients, the health system, and taxpayers is multidisciplinary team care with GPs at the heart. General practices already do this every day. We work with nurses, other specialists, allied health and pharmacists to ensure our patients get the best health outcomes, while making the best use of limited health resources. 

“The RACGP consultation with members indicated that the overwhelming majority believe they can increase their scope to benefit patients. So, this review must recognise that supporting Australia’s GPs and general practice teams to do more can improve access to care and reduce costs. And we’ve made a range of recommendations to this end, such as supporting GPs to prescribe more medicines, including for acne treatment, and provide more services to patients, like iron infusions, and diagnosis and management of dementia. 

"We shouldn't trade off quality and safety for convenience. Australia is in the top three health systems in the world. Let's keep it that way by investing in general practice care." 

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via: