Nearly one third of all Australian GPs set to retire in five years

Australia faces a severe shortage of general practitioners, as nearly one-third of the profession has signalled they will retire within the next five years.

Three in 10 GPs intend to call it quits by 2028, with more and more of the general practice workforce looking to reduce their working hours or leave their role entirely.

A Royal Australian College of General Practitioner report released on Wednesday highlighted the urgent need for the “attraction and retention” of GPs.

RACGP president Nicole Higgins echoed the report’s findings, adding the general practice workforce needed a boost to ensure the needs of Australians were met now and into the future.

“Our report is further evidence that we are facing a looming shortfall of GPs, and we need to do much more to attract and retain this essential workforce for the health of Australians now and into the future,” Dr Higgins said.

Australians are visiting general practices more than ever before according to the report, with less than 1 per cent of Australians unable to see their GP.

GPs have reported patients were going to general practices with more “complex” issues, with psychological issues listed in the top three reasons for patients presentations.

Dr Higgins said as a result of the increase in number and complexity of visits, GPs were spending more time per consultation addressing patients’ needs.

“Australia’s GPs are seeing more patients than ever and spending longer with them,” she said. “This reflects the increasing complexity of patient needs and more people presenting with chronic illness, multiple conditions and mental health issues.”

She added that in a “typical week”, just under 40 per cent of GP consults involved mental health issues.

The report suggested three key, and basic, measures that could be actioned “immediately” to ease the pain placed on GPs and increase retention.

Investing in an incentive payment for the initial six months spent completing community general practice training was recommended as part of the report.

Dr Higgins said it was “unfathomable” for study leave and paid parental leave during training not to already be offered for GPs in the contemporary workplace, further advocating for their immediate inclusion.

“It’s unfathomable that in today’s age GPs in training don’t get paid parental leave and more so when you consider that more women are becoming GPs each year than men,” she said.

“Addressing these three key barriers would make an immediate difference in getting more GPs training and working in the communities that need them.”

Originally published as Nearly one-third of all GPs set to retire in five years

Cristeen Gonzama

Cristeen Gonzales writes about health and medicine. She tends toward stories that reveal the on-the-ground impact of health policy, with a particular focus on the opioid epidemic, Covid-19 and abortion.

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