2024 Federal Budget must build Australia’s GP workforce to meet growing patient needs

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australia College of GPs (RACGP) is calling on the Federal Government to invest in growing Australia’s general practice workforce to meet the growing needs of patients today, and into the future.

With Australia facing a critical health worker shortage, including pharmacists, doctors, and a forecast shortfall of over 100,000 nurses, the RACGP is calling on the government to fund incentives and subsidised training to get enough GPs in every community in its pre-Budget Submission 2024-25.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the government’s significant reforms and investment in primary care cannot succeed without a strong general practice workforce.

“Having enough GPs training, working and living across Australia is vital not only for the health and wellbeing of every community, but also for the government’s health reforms to succeed,” she said.

“Australia is grappling with a perfect storm of factors, including an aging population and epidemic of chronic disease, which are putting increasing pressure on our health system, hospitals and emergency departments.

“Being a GP is one of the most rewarding jobs. But the workforce has been stifled by decades of underfunding, despite growing patient needs – our Health of the Nation survey found three-in-10 GPs intend to retire in the next five years.

“General practice helps people live healthier and reduces pressure on hospitals. Our government needs to act urgently to attract and retain this essential workforce – and we’re calling for measures to be actioned in the next Budget to give the workforce an immediate boost.

“This includes providing subsidised training for international and local doctors who train to become specialist GPs in regional and rural Australia. This investment will boost the GP workforce both in the immediate future and in the long-term, because we know GPs who train in rural communities are more likely to choose to live there.

“We’re also calling for the government to remove one of the key barriers to GP training by addressing differences in work entitlements and pay between hospitals and private practice. As it stands, GPs in training don’t get paid parental or study leave. This is a significant attraction barrier, particularly for women and those with young families. But it can be easily addressed by funding work entitlements and an incentive payment, so GPs in training get the same as their hospital-based counterparts.

“Together, these measures will boost our homegrown GP workforce, and attract more highly trained overseas doctors to come to Australia and meet the growing needs of communities today, and in the future. And this is crucial to the success of the government’s national health reforms and investment to improve primary care and make Australia healthier.”

In its pre-Budget Submission 2024-25, the RACGP is calling for:

  • Funding for 500 participants in the Fellowship Support Program and 600 in the PEP – Specialist Program to boost Australia’s GP workforce and get more GPs into communities in need.

  • Funding for paid parental and study leave for GP registrars and an incentive payment to ensure they’re paid the same as those working in hospitals.

About us:

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.

/Public Release.