AMA warns over looming GP shortage

The AMA is warning communities face a shortage of local doctors unless urgent action is taken.
The AMA is warning communities face a shortage of local doctors unless urgent action is taken.

There has been a 20 per cent fall in the number of doctors applying for GP training since 2015 and the Australian Medical Association is warning communities face a shortage of local doctors unless urgent action is taken.

AMA President Tony Bartone says there has also been a six per cent drop in the number of first year GP training posts filled since 2015, despite the 3700 medical students who graduate every year.

Dr Bartone, a Melbourne GP for more than 30 years, is warning that Australian communities will miss out on vital health care by family doctors unless there is urgent action to encourage medical students and young doctors to choose general practice as their medical specialty.

He said rural communities were at particular risk of losing out.

"Since 2015, we have seen a 20 per cent fall in the number of applications for GP training, and a six per cent drop in the number of first year GP training posts filled," Dr Bartone said.

"In 2019, 63 first year GP training places went unfilled even though multiple recruitment rounds were initiated."

He said GP registrars have reported a lack of parity with their remuneration and working conditions compared to other specialist trainee colleagues as they move out of the hospital environment.

"This disparity can influence their decision-making when deciding on what speciality to further train in," Dr Bartone said.

"We must work to ensure that general practice is a desirable career option. All communities, especially many in rural, regional and remote Australia, need local family doctors to meet current and future health care needs."

He said the AMA was talking to its GP and GP registrar members, as well as the federal government, about how to address the lack of parity in remuneration and other problems, including leave entitlements and lack of flexibility in employment arrangements, to ensure young doctors choose to pursue general practice.

Australian Associated Press