In 2022, more practices were accredited in a single year than ever before. Despite a dip in accredited practice numbers in 2021 – caused by maintenance (pause) to accreditation as a result of COVID-19 pandemic risk control measures – the number of accredited general practices has returned to a level that demonstrates the upward trend that was occurring for ten years prior to 2021.
Knowing the number of general practices in Australia in previous years, including at time points a decade apart from one another, allows for the analysis of accreditation growth. The Productivity Commission note that “due to data quality constraints, the Australian Government Department of Health [is] not able to provide the number of general practices (denominator) from 2020 [onwards] meaning a proportion could not be calculated.” In years to come, having such a denominator would allow us to better analyse growth (or not) in the number of accredited practices and see how the states and territories are performing in relation to their total practice numbers.
Further investigation is needed as to why the Northern Territory is seeing a dip in accredited practice numbers, while all other states and territories have experienced growth year on year. Again, having a total number of general practices in Australia as a denominator would allow us to see whether numbers in the Northern Territory are a result of declining practice numbers, or decline in accreditation.
The RACGP, ACSQHC and accreditation agencies all have a part to play in improving accreditation for general practice. Including more variables in the data would help to examine areas of particular interest, such as geographic distribution, practice size or whether a practice is newly accredited, or if they have undertaken multiple accreditation cycles – how many. To understand accreditation, we may therefore need to consider multiple sources of data.