Growth in GP training numbers in communities with health workforce shortages shows incentives work

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australia College of GPs (RACGP) is strengthening calls for the Federal Government to invest in boosting the general practice workforce to meet growing patient needs.

It comes as this year’s GP training numbers show incentives work to attract doctors to train in areas of need.

  • 114 incentivised training placements were successfully filled in areas of workforce need, many of which had not had a registrar for many years

  • 91% of new GP training places were filled in 2024, compared to 85% in 2023 – rural places increased 11%

The College responsible for training 90% of Australia’s GPs, including those training in rural and remote Australia, is in Canberra this week supporting a delegation of 20 GPs from across the country to meet with politicians.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the health of Australia depends on a strong general practice workforce.

“General practice is the cost-effective engine of our health system. GPs help people live healthier and longer, and reduce pressure on our hospitals,” she said.

“Australia is facing an acute health workforce shortage – pharmacists, nurses, psychiatrists, and GPs.

“But our latest training numbers show we have the solutions to boost the GP workforce and get more GPs training and working in communities in need. Incentives and support for GPs in training is an effective and simple fix.

“The RACGP is calling for the government to fund incentives and subsidised training to get enough GPs in every community in the next federal Budget. Being a GP is one of the most rewarding jobs, but the workforce has been hamstrung by decades of underfunding. This investment will help remove the barriers to GP training.”

The RACGP President also warned politicians against copying disastrous health reforms from the United Kingdom.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform our primary care system, and we need to get it right,” she said.

“Australia’s GPs are very concerned about the apparent push by some in Government for Australia to follow the UK’s NHS model. This was meant to improve access but has been frankly disastrous, with worse health outcomes, unhappy patients, and thousands of UK GPs fleeing to our shores – the number of UK-trained doctors in Australia increased a staggering 67% from 2013 to 2021.

“Doctors are fleeing the UK because their model has blurred the lines between professions, putting convenience before patient safety and creating a two-tiered health system. And the consequences have been dire. A recent report found medical professionals without the required training have been missing life threatening diagnoses and attempting to illegally prescribe drugs.

The King’s Fund report found the UK government’s failure to grow and invest in primary care services ranks as one of the most significant and long-running policy failures of the NHS. We mustn’t make the same mistakes here.

“The best quality and value model of primary care for patients, the health system, and taxpayers is team-based care with GPs at the heart. This involves GPs working with other health professionals: nurses, pharmacists, allied health, and other specialist doctors, preferably from the same patient medical record, within a general practice.

“GPs are the only trained medical specialists in whole-person care, from cradle to grave, which keeps people healthy.

“GPs are also experts at stretching limited health resources, while ensuring patients get the care they need.

“Everyone’s primary care team needs a GP, and any health reforms must support this – everyone deserves high-quality care, no matter where they live or what they earn.”

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

  • Funding to subsidise the training for 1,100 international and local doctors to become specialist GPs in regional and rural Australia, to 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 registrars working in hospitals.


/Public Release.