Projected GP shortage sparks calls for urgent reform
5th December, 2019
New research shows Australia is heading for a major shortage of General Practitioners (GPs) by 2030.
The Deloitte Access Economics ‘General Practitioner Workforce Report 2019’, commissioned by Cornerstone Health, found that under current policy settings, there is projected to be a shortfall of 9,298 full-time GPs (24.7% of the GP workforce) by 2030. The deficiency of GPs will be most extreme in urban areas with a shortfall of 7,535 full-time GPs (31.7%) by 2030.
The Report highlights that there will be 37.5% increase in the demand for GP services between 2019 and 2030 (139.8 million increasing to 192.1 million).
Report author, and Deloitte Access Economics partner, Lynne Pezzullo says one of the main factors behind the shortfall is the regulatory constraint that limits the number of overseas trained doctors permitted to work in urban areas under the Stronger Rural Health Strategy (SRHS).
“Our research found 68.1% of GP services are currently demanded in urban areas however only 62.4% of GPs are in those areas. This will only get worse by 2030 as populations in those areas increase,” Pezzullo said.
Cornerstone Health, a primary healthcare provider in areas of unmet need, is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit GPs in urban areas to keep up with consumer demand.
CEO and Founder Henry Bateman says the government can’t wait until 2030 to fix this important issue.
“There needs to be the right policy settings and incentives in place to encourage doctors to practice in areas of unmet need.
The Report found that while the SRHS policies will result in a smaller deficit of supply in regional areas, the SRHS restrictions to the supply of overseas trained doctors in urban areas will exacerbate the urban supply deficit.
Bateman believes it is critical that fast growing and outer suburban areas have access to quality primary care, reducing demand on the public hospital system.
“It is critical that regulation governing the recruitment of GPs is considering the fast-growing populations of outer metropolitan areas, as well as rural and regional Australia. A sensible first step would be to modify the Health Workforce Locator or to reinstate the District of Workforce maps which ensured that overseas trained doctors were able to practice where they were needed most,” he said.
The Report also found the GP shortage is being compounded by a lack of Australian trained graduates.
General practitioner of 25 years, Dr John Crimmins says the report’s quantitative data emphasizes the need to invest in primary, preventative healthcare.
“Access to quality GPs is the foundation of Australia’s healthcare system. It is critical we invest in the ongoing training and education of GPs to meet demand and facilitate the care of chronic disease before patients are forced to enter hospital,” said Dr Crimmins.
The report also found major demographic changes are set to impact the GP workforce. These include an increasing proportion of female GPs, GPs delaying retirement, and rural GPs ageing more quickly than urban GPs.
The Report concluded that over the medium to long term, increasing registrar enrolments – particularly in urban areas – will assist with delivering a better geographical alignment of the GP workforce to meet demand.
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About Cornerstone Health
Cornerstone Health’s purpose is to increase access to quality primary health care for all Australians. To meet that purpose, we establish primary healthcare facilities that Medicare bulk bill and are open 365 days a year from 7am to 10pm where they are needed most – in fast growing urban areas such as Marsden Park (North West Sydney), Cranbourne (South East Melbourne) and Loganholme (South East Brisbane).
Henry Bateman, CEO and Founder Cornerstone Health is available for interview.