The fact that a third of the GP workforce is over 55 is well known.
We also know that GPs between the ages of 50 and 80 years will gradually reduce their working hours before retiring completely
However, what the industry has overlooked is the massive impact the gradual slowing of the workforce is going to have on Australia’s health care system.
Whilst it is hard to predict the rate at which GPs will start to scale back their hours and transition to retirement, it is clear to see that unless we get more GPs, our national population which is growing by approximately 350,000 people per year, will struggle to access reliable healthcare and we already have a shortage in areas as it is.
If the Over 55s GP Workforce Dropped One Session per Week in a Year
The above shows that we would need at least 1,500 new registrars, just to cover the GPs that are starting to scale back their hours now. It doesn’t even begin to consider GPs who are ready to retire completely.
Because GPs are under no obligation to make clear retirement plans, and often reduce their hours gradually, it is extremely difficult to forecast workforce supply needs. In 2015-16 there were 34,606 GPs in Australia . Of these, 36.8% are aged 55 or over, with only 68% working full-time. If this is a continuing trend and these GPs were to drop one session per week in the coming year, that would leave 12,742 sessions to be picked up. Roughly 51,000 hours to be filled by registrars and overseas trained doctors. In order to fill this sessional decreases, we would need 1,593 registrars (on the basis of a registrar doing a 32-hour week) injected in to the GP landscape.
Unless the reality is addressed and GP numbers increased dramatically, Australians will suffer from a shortage of GPs.