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Introduction

A thriving, accessible and high-quality general practice sector is vital to the health of Australia. General practitioners (GPs) are the first point of contact for most Australians seeking healthcare, with almost 90% of the population seeing a GP at least once each year.1

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the country’s largest professional general practice organisation, representing more than 41,000 members, including more than 24,000 Fellows, who treat more than 22 million patients1 across Australia every year.

The annual General Practice: Health of the Nation report collates data from various sources to provide a unique overview of the general practice sector.

The report draws on specifically commissioned research spanning four years, involving RACGP Fellows from all parts of Australia. The online survey was undertaken by EY Sweeney during May 2020. Demographics of the 1782 respondents from the 2020 RACGP Health of the Nation survey was as follows:

  • 62% female, 38% male*
  • 8% <35 years, 26% 35–44 years, 33% 45–54 years, 24% 55–64 years, 9% ≥65 years
  • 9% Western Australia, 10% Northern Territory/South Australia, 22% Queensland, 29% New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory, 30% Victoria/Tasmania, 1% overseas
  • 73% in major cities, 19% inner-regional, 7% outer‑regional, 2% remote and very remote.

The report also draws on information from the MABEL (Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life) survey, and a range of government and other stakeholder publications.

The General Practice: Health of the Nation report focuses on a range of topic areas, including:

  • the health of the profession
  • patient access to general practice
  • the varied and important services that GPs provide to communities
  • challenges facing GPs and general practices.

Each year, RACGP members select a topic of focus for the report. In 2020, the report focuses on the unique environment created by the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic and the 2019–20 summer bushfires. The challenge of adapting processes and responding to crises is reflected in the survey findings throughout the report.

As the fourth edition of General Practice: Health of the Nation, this report provides opportunity to track changes over the short and medium term, and forecasts possible longer-term changes and their implications.

  • Some respondents’ postcodes used to determine rurality fall into more than one Accessibility and Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) code, hence regions sum to more than 100%.
  • All RACGP Fellows were invited to participate in the survey. To minimise the impact of non-response, reminders were sent throughout the fieldwork period. However, there was a higher proportion of female respondents than the population of RACGP Fellows (50%), suggesting some response bias is present in the final sample.
  • 1. Department of Health. Annual Medicare statistics: Financial year 1984–85 to 2019–20. Canberra: DoH, 2020.

© 2021 The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) ABN 34 000 223 807