GPs have a part to play in education
From Health cover students earlier exposure to general practice and attracting more of them to the discipline.
Currently, only 24 per cent of Australian medical graduates choose general practice — far less than the general practice proportion of the overall medical workforce. It is thought that somewhere between 35 and 40 per cent of all doctors are GPs, with another 40 per cent being specialists. The remaining 20 per cent are researchers, academics, career hospital house officers and others.
‘‘ We would like to see 35 to 40 per cent of Australian graduates entering general practice,’’ Willcock said. ‘‘ The only way we can see that happening is to give them substantial, positive experience (of GP practice) as early as possible in their careers.’’
Willcock said the rural clinical schools were ‘‘ a great model’’ to emulate, because now that the first doctors to have been trained in them were starting to emerge, it was clear the schools were successful in encouraging students to stay in rural areas.
‘‘ We see there is a very positive opportunity to increase the primary health care workforce — but at the same time we need to increase the resources to teach them, otherwise they will drift to other specialist disciplines,’’ Willcock said.
‘‘ There are a lot of (GP) teaching practices in the community, and some do quite a lot of teaching. But there aren’t many large teaching centres that can accommodate significant numbers of students. We are thinking of community clinics that could have 30-40 students in a single day — some of them being taught by GP registrars, while others perhaps have some specialist training from the appropriate specialist. There aren’t any community facilities at the moment able to take students in those numbers.’’
Numbers of places in the GP training program have been capped by the federal Government since 1997, although the cap has been increased from the original 400 places and now stands at 600.
Although undersubscribed for several years, GPET had more applicants than places for the first time last year. Willcock conceded that in order to attract more medical graduates to choose general practice as their ultimate career path, the 600-place cap would need to be lifted as early as next year.
No formal requests had yet been made, but an increase of 100 places was a distinct possibility, he said.
A spokeswoman for Abbott said the minister had ‘‘ undertaken to consider’’ the recommendations from GPET’s summit, but had not formed a view yet as to whether he backed the community training plan or not.
Positive experience: Simon Willcock, of General Practice Education and Training, with medical student Louis Ereve