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GPs are the backbone of Australian healthcare, with almost 85% of the population seeing a GP at least once each year.1 A thriving, accessible and high-quality general practice sector is vital to the health of the nation.

As Australia’s largest professional general practice organisation, the RACGP represents more than 43,000 members, including more than 24,000 Fellows who have completed specialist training (or its equivalent). These are the frontline GPs who treat almost  22 million patients1 across the country every year.

Our annual General Practice: Health of the Nation report helps shine a light on Australian general practice. It examines the main reasons people see their GP, as well as how they interact with the primary health system. It also points to the main challenges GPs face and what must be addressed to ensure Australians can access the care they need, when they need it.

The report collates data from various sources – including publicly available data from the Department of Health, Medicare, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Productivity Commission – to provide a unique overview of the general practice sector. It also draws directly on GPs’ own thoughts via the 2021 Health of the Nation survey, specifically commissioned research spanning five years that has involved RACGP Fellows from all parts of Australia.

The online survey was undertaken by EY Sweeney during April and May 2021. The 1386 survey respondents covered a wide range of demographics:

  • 59% female, 40% male*
  • 8% <35 years, 26% 35–44 years, 31% 45–54 years, 24% 55–64 years, 11% ≥65 years
  • 12% Western Australia, 10% Northern Territory/South Australia, 23% Queensland, 28% New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory, 27% Victoria/Tasmania, <1% overseas
  • 70% in major cities, 20% inner-regional, 8% outer‑regional, 2% remote and very remote

The General Practice: Health of the Nation report focuses on a range of general practice 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 practices.

RACGP members select a specific topic of focus for the report each year. In 2021, that focus is multimorbidity in general practice. The ongoing challenge of adapting processes and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is also reflected in survey findings throughout the report.

As the fifth 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.

  • All RACGP Fellows were invited to participate in the survey. To minimise the impact of non-response, reminders were sent throughout the fieldwork period. The survey sample was representative in terms of GP age and practice location, but had a greater proportion of female respondents than the overall RACGP Fellow cohort.
  • 1. Department of Health. Annual Medicare statistics: Financial year 1984–85 to 2020–21. Canberra: DoH, 2021.