Bad policy equals massive GP shortages: Report

10 January 2020 | Clinic Owners and Practice Managers | 5 minutes read

Bad policy equals massive GP shortages: Report

A recent analysis predicts a shortage of more than 9,000 full time GPs within ten years – supporting our earlier commentary that increased GP shortages are likely in outer metropolitan areas.

The Deloitte Access Economics General Practitioner Workforce Report 2019  predicts that:

  • It’s expected that by 2030, there will be a shortfall of 9,298 full-time GPs or 24.7% of the GP workforce. The report also finds that in urban areas the shortage will be most extreme with a deficiency of 7,535 full-time GPs or 31.7%.
  • 68.1% of GP services are currently demanded in urban areas, yet only 62.4% of GPs are in those areas. With the continual population growth in urban areas until 2030, the situation is projected to get far worse.
  • Between 2019 and 2030, there will be a 37.5% increase in the demand for GP services in Australia.

Not surprisingly, a recent study from Indeed highlights that GPs top the list of hard-to-fill positions in Australia (relates to high-income bracket only).

Essentially, it has become significantly harder for practices to find GPs. Being on the ground as recruiters and workforce advisors in this field, we experience it first-hand. We currently have 800+ GP vacancies that have come to us without any effort.  95% of them are in metropolitan areas.

Since the introduction of the Stronger Rural Health Strategy (SRHS) in 2018 and the consequent policy changes, we have noticed a big impact on the supply of GPs in metropolitan areas.

For more details regarding recent policy change, please see our blog on what has changed since the introduction of the SRHS came into effect.

The sad thing about the situation and worsening trend is that the Australian community will pay the price of bad policy.

The good news is that we are not alone with our views and advocacy for policy change.

The report outlines hard facts corroborating that we are heading for a significant shortage of General Practitioners by 2030. 

In particular the report highlights:

In essence, the report calls for urgent policy changes in order to prevent the foreseen shortage of GPs in Australia.

We strongly agree with this verdict and hope that we can bring about change by advocating for better policies. We believe that the most pressing issue is the new Visas for GPs requirement. We have dealt with 19AB exemptions for years and can find ways around it for at least some doctors. We also have practices who have DWS replacement numbers.  But we can’t get visas and so it is much harder to place doctors or move them between locations.

Martina Stanley, one of the Alecto co-founders, points out that the visa rules and the requirements for the Health Workforce Certificate are a staggering piece of discriminatory policy against GPs.  The immigration Department works with hundreds of occupation codes who are all able to access 482 visas – but GPs can’t!

Exploring the reasons for the projected shortfall

  • New General Practitioners: The number of new Australian trained General Practitioners is decreasing. In fact, the number of new registrars has decreased by approximately 20% since 2016.
  • OTD’s: Overseas trained doctors have for a long time been the remedy to our urgent need for GPs in rural areas, but they also filled the gap for shortages in urban areas. Due to the Visas for GPs initiative and policies limiting the number of overseas trained doctors permitted to work in urban areas, there are unintended consequences for patients’ access to healthcare.
  • Graduates: The undersupply of GPs is also driven by a lack of Australian trained graduates. Jay Munro, head of career insights at Indeed, states: “We know that a lot of graduate doctors aren’t specialising in general practice as it’s a very different environment, and money can be considerably lower than a specialist consultant in another field,” he explained.
  • Aging GPs: More than a third of GPs are over 55. While the impact is relatively small compared to other factors, retirement and deaths of GPs will also slow the supply growth rate.

Closing words

Facts speak louder than words and if nothing will change, the Australian population will pay the price of restricted access to healthcare.

We hope that the relevant government agencies take note of the worsening trend to reverse any adverse effects on the current and future supply of GPs.

While some people might believe Alecto and other GP workforce policy advocates are only supporting the need for policy changes to benefit commercially, we strongly disagree.

If you would like to help us bring about policy changes, please share this article via email and social media. We appreciate your assistance in spreading awareness.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as legal opinion and therefore should not be the basis of decision making without requesting legal advice on your circumstances.  Alecto Consulting Pty Ltd does not carry any responsibility for opinions and statements in any of its website blogs or other information.

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