General practitioners (GPs) in rural and remote areas have faced some enormous challenges over the past two years. As the professional home for around 80 per cent of Australia’s rural and remote GPs, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) understands that, more than ever, doctors practising outside major cities need different and more robust forms of support. We can’t keep doing the same thing. In 2022, we’ll innovate and continue to amplify our strong voice to advocate for general practice, the cornerstone of the health system in these communities.
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for well-trained and supported GPs has never been more critical. We’re maintaining our commitment to a world-class healthcare system for all Australians, regardless of their postcode, and we know GP training must meet the unique needs of rural patients.
From February 2023, Australian general practice training will return to the colleges, which means future GPs will be trained by the RACGP and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). The RACGP has more than 40,000 members, 22,500 of whom belong to our dedicated RACGP Rural faculty. Almost 10,000 of our members practise in rural, regional and remote locations, so we’re well placed to educate a future general practice workforce that ensures healthcare equity.
The shift back to college-led training is an opportunity to create a nationally consistent, locally delivered, fit-for-purpose training program for the next generation of GPs. We’ll build on the successes of the existing training model, led by the regional training organisations, but also make a raft of improvements, particularly in the area of rural generalism.
The RACGP’s biggest priority for 2022 is building on the considerable work already done by our transition team to operationalise our profession-led, community-based training model and bring general practice training back to the college with minimal disruption to our GPs in training.
Our training model will ensure superior education and, importantly, support the equitable distribution of GPs, including mobility across jurisdictions and making sure training aligns with community needs. A pillar of the model is prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and the needs of everyone living in rural and remote Australia.
The model focuses on developing confident, capable, independent rural generalists (RGs) and rural GPs to meet the needs of communities in regional, rural and remote locations. RGs tend to work in larger regional centres with hospitals and a large enough catchment to employ their specialised procedural skills, while most rural and remote locations are served by GPs employing additional skills without the support of nearby secondary and tertiary care services. Post-Fellowship, the RACGP will further support these RGs and rural GPs by continuing to lobby government to increase Workforce Incentive Programs with additional payments for additional skills. We’ll also push to ensure these doctors are appropriately compensated for their additional skills through access to the relevant speciality MBS items.
The RACGP training model has a strong community focus and is built on the solid foundation of high-quality medical educators, training managers, supervisors and training sites. Its ultimate aim is to improve universal access to high-quality medical services for people in every corner of the country, from our biggest cities to our smallest, most remote communities.