Far North Queensland unites with national GP training program

Royal Australian College of GPs

With the transition of GP Training in Far North Queensland to the general practice colleges, the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has today welcomed GP registrars, supervisors, training sites, practice managers, and staff to a truly national training program.

James Cook University (JCU) announced it would step away from GP training in February and the RACGP has prepared staff and systems to take on Far North Queensland GP training, along with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).

In all, over 200 registrars joined the RACGP’s GP training programs today from JCU.

Thirty-four clinical and operational staff also officially joined the RACGP from JCU, with additional regional medical educator recruitment ongoing. A further four staff joined Joint Colleges Training Services, an Aboriginal-led joint venture of ACRRM and the RACGP which supports cultural education for GPs, success for Indigenous GPs, and GP training for the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service sector.

In 2023, the College successfully managed the onboarding of GP training from Regional Training Organisations. Following the transition, more than 92% of GP registrars reported they were satisfied with the quality of their in-practice training in the 2023 National Registrar Survey, and ratings from GPs in training improved in most metrics of the most recent Medical Training Survey.

The RACGP will continue existing training agreements with registrars, supervisors, and practices for the remainder of 2024.

RACGP President and Mackay GP Dr Nicole Higgins said the College had undergone extensive preparation to make the transition as seamless as possible for registrars, practices, and supervisors.

“The RACGP has now been running most of Australia’s GP training under a national system that supports local training expertise and local needs for almost 18 months,” she said.

“While the transition of the other eight Regional Training Organisations to the RACGP last year was almost seamless, the College hasn’t taken this change on lightly. The teams working to prepare for the change have applied lessons from that transition to make things as easy as possible for our new staff, supervisors, practice teams, and GP registrars. James Cook University and its teams have made a great contribution to GP training, and we’re ready to continue their legacy.

“The success of the previous transition, along with the leadership we have in place and the experience we gained during that process, makes me confident our new teams and registrars will receive exceptional support.

“We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues and registrars into a truly national Australian General Practice Training program, with open arms.”

RACGP GPs in Training faculty Chair Dr Rebecca Loveridge said continuity for registrars and supervisors is a top priority during and following the transition.

“Fortunately, most of the changes will be minimal for our new registrars and supervisors,” she said.

“Maintaining the GP training relationships and domain knowledge James Cook University built in the Far North Queensland region has been a major priority. For many of our new registrar colleagues, little will change beyond a login and access to RACGP resources. Making sure any issues are made known and addressed is key to that.

“The RACGP works with the GPs in Training faculty to make sure that issues are picked up and solved as early as possible. The GPs in Training Council will be open contact with our new registrars to make sure the College understands and addresses any issues that arise.”

RACGP Vice President and Rural Chair Associate Professor Michael Clements, who practices in Townsville and remote clinics and holds an academic role at JCU, said the RACGP’s extensive experience in managing rural and regional GP training would be valuable in his region.

“It’s absolutely essential Far North Queensland communities have a strong pipeline of GP registrars to meet their GP workforce needs, now and into the future,” he said.

“While the RACGP will continue to advocate to and work with our state and federal governments to increase support for GPs in northern Queensland and all rural and remote areas, it’s also vital we ensure our systems give rural and remote GP registrars the support they need to succeed. We’ve put significant efforts into that, and we’ll continue to encourage future GPs to consider rural practice.

“One thing recent Medical Deans reports have highlighted is the growing interest in rural generalism among those approaching the end of medical school. Rural generalism is now the sixth-highest preferred specialisation, and the top preference of around 8% of domestic graduates.

“Northern Queensland is a brilliant place to live and practice. This is an opportunity for us to bring a new generation of GPs into practice in our beautiful, exciting, and fulfilling environment and set them up for success.”

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/Public Release.