GP training structure threatened by Budget reforms: AMA

28 July, 2014

GP Registrars gathered in Sydney recently to discuss the future of general practice training against a backdrop of major policy setbacks announced in the May Budget.

The gathering was held as a precursor to AMA Family Doctor Week 2014 which was held last week (20-26 July).

AMA President A/Prof Owler told the gathering the Federal Budget had introduced changes that would have a lasting effect on general practice training in Australia.

"Key GP training bodies are being abolished or absorbed by the Department of Health, and important training programs have been cut or abolished," A/Prof Owler said.

"These changes are major setbacks for general practice training.

"The AMA and GP registrars are keen to shape a training path that will ensure general practice remains an attractive career option for medical students and graduates."

The Budget changes include:

  • the abolition of General Practice Education and Training (GPET), with some of its functions being absorbed into the Department of Health (DoH);
  • the abolition of Regional Training Providers (RTP), with their role being put out to a tender process;
  • the abolition of the Prevocational GP Placements Program (PGPPP), which has been providing almost 1000 junior doctors with valuable GP experience, and services to communities, particularly in rural areas; and
  • an additional 300 first year GP training places from 2015 onwards.

Fragmented structure

A/Prof Owler said while the additional 300 GP training places are welcome, the AMA and GP registrars are concerned about the impact of the government's other reforms which have the potential to fragment and reduce the quality of GP training in Australia, and discourage junior doctors from choosing general practice as a career.

"Abolishing GPET takes away professional control and leadership of GP training, and we believe that the Department of Health does not have the necessary experience to run GP training," A/Prof Owler said.

"The Budget reforms will dismantle the existing GP training infrastructure that has taken many years to put in place.

"Instead, the government appears to be resting all its faith in the marketplace to provide a training solution – this is a recipe for chaos.

"The profession has serious concerns about the Department of Health being able to implement this reform program in the unrealistic timeframes outlined in the Budget.

"The Forum participants firmly endorsed the need for GP training to have strong professional oversight through the existing GP Colleges, and for the Colleges to have an expanded role in GP training, helping to fill the void that will be created by the loss of GPET.

"The Forum wants the government to defer the abolition of RTPs to ensure continuity and stability in GP training, while proper consultation takes place with the profession about the future structure and role of these organisations.

Prevocational placements invaluable for junior doctors

"With the abolition of the PGPPP, there is strong support for the development of a new funded program to provide junior doctors with general practice experience, especially in rural areas where they have been providing valuable support to local GPs and their patients.

"There are proven benefits of providing junior doctors with prevocational placements in general practice.

"The AMA is grateful to the GP registrars for their forthright grassroots responses to the Budget impact on GP training.

"We remain committed to working with the GPRA to preserve the future quality and viability of GP training."

AMA Family Doctor Week 2014