Australia is heading for a major shortage of GPs particularly in urban centres, a new report finds.
This is being blamed in part on a government policy that diverts overseas trained doctors away from cities to rural and remote areas.
The report by Deloitte Access Economics forecasts a deficit of 9,298 full-time GPs, nearly one quarter of the workforce, by 2030.
However, the undersupply will be most severe in urban areas, which will be lacking 7,535 full-time GPs, or one-third of the workforce, according to the analysis, commissioned by the medical centre giant, Cornerstone Health.
"There needs to be the right policy settings and incentives in place to encourage doctors to practice in areas of unmet need,” Cornerstone Health CEO and founder Henry Bateman (pictured) writes on a LinkedIn post.
“I’m personally campaigning that we look at policy today – we can’t wait until 2030 to fix this important issue.”
In the report’s forward, Mr Bateman blames limitations on the number of overseas trained doctors permitted to work in urban areas.
“The diversion of overseas trained doctors to rural, remote and regional areas will have unintended consequences for patients’ access to healthcare in urban areas,” he says.
He also argues that a lack of Australian trained graduates is compounding the problem.
The report finds that 68.1% of GP services are currently demanded in urban areas however only 62.4% of GPs are in those areas.
“This will only get worse by 2030 as populations in those areas increase,” Mr Bateman says.
In 2018, the Australian Government launched its Stronger Rural Health Strategy (SRHS), which redirects doctors from metropolitan areas to rural and remote areas.
In a statement, Mr Bateman says it is critical that regulations covering the recruitment of GPs considered the fast-growing populations of outer metropolitan areas, as well as rural and regional Australia.
“A sensible first step would be to modify the Health Workforce Locator, or to reinstate the District of Workforce maps, which ensured that overseas trained doctors were able to practise where they were needed most,” he says.
For the full report, go to Deloitte Access Economics General Practitioner Workforce Report 2019