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Chapter 4: Job satisfaction and work–life balance

4.5 Experience of practice owners

Half of practice owners (50%) reported being concerned about the long-term viability of their practice, an increase from 37% in 2020. However, the proportion of owners concerned about the short-term viability of their practice is just 4%, which is a marked drop from 20% in last year’s survey, completed during the early COVID-19 lockdown.3

The impact of Australia’s first COVID-19 lockdown, mandated bulk billing of new telehealth MBS item numbers and the temporary decrease in patient presentations resulted in a more immediate concern over viability of practices in April 2020. That concern remains in 2021, but its immediacy has abated.

RACGP members reported that COVID-19 has placed additional financial pressure on practices. This includes increased overheads relating to providing telehealth services (additional administrative time, higher phone bills, the cost of infrastructure upgrades, etc), mandated bulk billing of COVID-19 MBS items, and increased costs of PPE, such as masks and gloves.

Providing COVID-19 vaccination services incurs additional costs, such as purchasing additional vaccine fridges, website upgrades, battery backups, increased staff costs to provide vaccines after hours, cover for sick or quarantining staff, and the need to respond to increased patient phone calls. Some practices have had to temporarily close due to COVID-19 exposure.

This has coincided with the Federal Government’s guaranteed superannuation increase of 0.5% from 1 July 2021, as well as usual increases in award rates. Rental increases have also seen the largest annual growth in more than a decade.43

For many outer-metropolitan and inner-regional areas, changes to the government’s classification systems for determining areas of workforce need∗∗ over the past three years have negatively affected revenue through loss of bulk-billing incentives and also reduced their ability to recruit enough GPs to staff their practices.

Despite these business concerns, GP practice owners reported higher rates of satisfaction with their career in general practice than non-owners (Figure 43). GPs who are practice owners are also more likely (63%) than non-owners (57%) to recommend general practice as a career to junior colleagues.3

Figure 43. Practice owners are more satisfied with their career than non-owners

Practice owners are more satisfied with their career than non-owners
Measure: Responses to the question, ‘Taking everything into consideration, how do you feel about your work?’ by ownership status.
Base: n = 1386.
Source: EY Sweeney, RACGP GP Fellow Survey, May 2021.
  • ∗∗ From 1 July 2019, the Federal Government introduced the Distribution Priority Area classification system, replacing the Districts of Workforce Shortage Assessment Areas for General Practitioners and Bonded Doctors. There was also an update to the Modified Monash Model classification system, effective 1 January 2020. RACGP member feedback indicates that the effects of these changes are being acutely felt in 2021.
  • 3. EY Sweeney. RACGP GP Fellow Survey. Melbourne: EY Sweeney, 2021.
  • 43. CoreLogic. National rents record highest annual growth in over a decade. Sydney: CoreLogic, 2021. [Accessed 3 September 2021]