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Chapter 5: The future of the GP workforce

5.1 Interest in entering general practice training

The number of medical graduates in Australia continues to grow, while the proportion of those graduates choosing to enter pre-Fellowship training in general practice is in decline. The number of GP specialists is growing at a rate of 3.5% per year, compared to a yearly increase of 4.5% in the number of non-GP specialists.24

Medical graduates’ interest in entering the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program has been in decline in recent years; however, the 2021 application round saw the highest number of applicants since 2017 (Figure 44). The AGPT Program is the largest single training pathway to a career in general practice. There are several other pathways to Fellowship, including the RACGP General Practice Experience (GPE) pathway,†† the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) Independent Pathway and the Remote Vocational Training Scheme.

Interest in joining the RACGP GPE pathway is growing, with the number of new enrolments in the Practice Experience Program (PEP) standard stream increasing by more than 42% since 2019. There were 344 new enrolments during the first three intakes in 2021.44

Figure 44. The number of medical graduates applying to the AGPT Program has rebounded

The number of medical graduates applying to the AGPT Program has rebounded

Measure: Number of graduates/applicants/trainees, by year.
Data sources: Department of Health. Health Workforce Division. Unpublished data provided to the RACGP, June 2021.
Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand. Student statistics report August 2019-20. Sydney: Medical Deans, 2020. Sydney: Medical Deans, 2020.

In a 2021 newsGP poll, 79% of more than 1250 respondents indicated the best way to attract more medical graduates to general practice was to increase remuneration.45

The proportion of final-year medical students listing general practice as their first-preference specialty for the future has fallen to 15.2% in 2019, the lowest number since 2012.46 Almost one in five prevocational and unaccredited doctors in training (18%) and one in 10 interns (11%) said they intend to pursue training with the RACGP.25

The most commonly reported times to decide to specialise in general practice is more than one year out of medical school (37%), after trying another specialty (24%), and early (18%) or late (17%) in a medical degree.[26]26

The most common reasons for choosing to become a specialist GP are hours and working conditions (78%), diversity of patients and medical presentations (65%), building long-term relationships with patients (59%), and social responsibility or to support the community (33%).26

  • †† Commencing in 2019, the RACGP’s GPE pathway comprises the PEP standard and PEP specialist streams. GPE is a self-directed education pathway to support non-vocationally registered doctors on their journey to Fellowship of the RACGP. The PEP is partially funded under the Federal Government’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy for doctors based in rural areas (MMM areas 2–7).
  • 24. Scott A. The evolution of the medical workforce. Melbourne: The Melbourne Institute, 2021.
  • 25. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, Medical Board of Australia. Medical Training Survey 2020. Melbourne: AHPRA, 2021.
  • 26. Taylor R, Clarke L, Radloff A. Australian General Practice Training Program: National Report on the 2020 National Registrar Survey. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, 2021.
  • 44. RACGP. Training data. 2021. Unpublished data.
  • 45. RACGP. newsGP poll. Melbourne: RACGP, 2021.
  • 46. Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand. Medical Schools Outcomes Database: National Data Report 2020. Sydney: Medical Deans, 2020.