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We all know how hard it is to find a GP, we at Alecto do it for a living! The government continues to put barriers in place for specialist GPs moving to Australia from the UK and Ireland. The pathway for overseas’ GPs remains tough, but not impossible. It is however confusing, so we wanted to provide you with an update on the current pathways for these GPs.

RACGP PEP Specialist Stream

The RACGP’s PEP Specialist Stream was introduced nearly two years ago, and it has been a difficult two years. The program is simply a Workforce Distribution tool forced into existence by the Department of Health. It is not focused on quality or support. It is a tool to achieve distribution and is not a quality management process – as expressed by the Minister of Health himself.

Whilst we have seen small improvements in timeframes, we are still confronted with the issue of provider numbers. Under the PEP, once the GP arrives in Australia, they may have to wait up to 12 weeks for the RACGP to sort through the paperwork and have Medicare issue a provider number so they may commence working. This is incredibly difficult for the GPs and the practices, but the issue is also compounded by the current border restrictions.

These factors have all reduced the supply of GPs in Australia immensely, with only 52 GPs going through the comparability assessment in the past 12 months compare with 400 two years ago (and we know some have yet to arrive and start work)

GP Priority Catchments

There has been a small win in relation to the PEP Specialist Stream. There are now a few locations that will be approved under the program that are not DPA areas but classified as GP Priority Catchments.  There is a list of these areas compiled by the Department of Health, but there is no way of accessing the list except through the RACGP.  Even the Visas for GPs program does not have access.

The only way to find out if you are in a Priority area is to write to the RACGP with details of your location. We encourage all practices in non-DPA areas in outer metro or inner regional areas, to contact [email protected] to ask if their practice address is considered a GP Priority Catchment Area.

If it is, then we have a larger chance of recruiting a great GP to join your practice.

Health Workforce Certificates

In other news, we have heard they are trying to get rid of the requirement to provide a Health Workforce Certificate in the RACGP application process – as there are many GPs who don’t need visa sponsorship who still have to provide it!

The Visas for GPs program is still going strong and diligently working as another tool for the government to control the placement of GPs in Australia. We have spoken to clinics in desperate need for GPs, some in rural areas, who have not been granted a certificate. They have put in appeals over the last year however none have been approved.

Distribution Priority Areas

Interestingly there were only some small changes that happened to the DPA map this year and most were positive. We saw minimal losses of DPA status and some gains where borders were slightly changed. We also had a surprise with the Brimbank, VIC catchment gaining DPA status once again.

Over the past few months, we have seen some wins, but we have also seen practices that are struggling to survive due to the shortage of GPs in Australia. This shortage has been significantly impacted by the RACGP PEP Specialist Stream, Visas for GPs program, and the COVID-19 Pandemic. We can only hope that the government will listen to practice owners and understand the real-world reality of GP recruitment. Changes need to be made to workforce programs soon because it is already getting to be too late for some GP practices.