GPs have a part to play in ed­u­ca­tion

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

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

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