Published by GPEx on July 28, 2019

Decline in GP applicants

We are all facing a very big challenge and that is the critical decline in the number of applications for the 2020 AGPT Program, particularly for the rural pathway. There are 1,426 training positions available across Australia, including general (743) and rural (683) pathway positions through RACGP, with just 1,383 eligible applicants in the 1st intake. ACRRM has 158 training places on the rural pathway with 127 eligible applicants.

Take a look at the South Australian data for GPEx below:

GP Shortage SA Data

GPEx has been in discussions with the Department of Health, RACGP and ACRRM and an additional selection round is scheduled to begin in September 2019.

GPEx has explored a number of strategies in response to this decline which include;

1. Encouraging general pathway registrars to consider rural placements

In the lead up to Semester 1, 2019, we have started a campaign to encourage general pathway registrars to consider rural placements as part of meeting their Department of Health training obligations. If you know any registrars currently in the AGPT program that have spent time at your practice as medical students or interns, we urge you to contact them and encourage them to experience a rural placement as a working doctor. We have seen a number of examples where general pathway registrars have stayed in rural practices long term, so it is worth taking the time to make that call and have a conversation.


2. Sponsoring International medical students who have trained in SA

There are a number of international medical students who have trained in SA and would like to apply to the AGPT program but because they don’t yet have permanent residency, they are ineligible to apply without appropriate sponsorship.

If you are interested in sponsoring a registrar on a temporary visa, please contact GPEx to let us know and we can work with you to ensure that all the training requirements for the registrar are met. As part of the sponsorship agreement, any registrar you sponsor will need to remain in your employment for a minimum of two years: this is a great opportunity to immerse them in your community and entice them to stay rural.

3. Regional Exposure Visits for Junior Doctors

Recognising the limited opportunities for junior doctors to experience rural placements, GPEx is actively organising regional exposure visits for junior doctors. This will be an opportunity for rural practices and communities to “sell” the benefits of working and living rurally.

GPEx has regular contact with the Medical Student society groups at The University of Adelaide and Flinders University, and regularly supports student events to provide information about general practice and the opportunities for a diverse and challenging career.

GPEx is also proud to partner with the Adelaide Medical Student Society (AMSS) to deliver the APY Lands Project. This gives students a unique, hands on experience, preparing a skilled and sustainable workforce for future practice in Indigenous Health.

4. Research

The declining number of applications for rural GP training positions has prompted Country Health SA to commission through GPEx a research project that looks into the reasons why junior doctors are not choosing GP. This research will start in July and finish in December 2019 and provide us with factual information about when, how and why doctors are choosing their specialty and location of future practice.

5. GPEx Connect

We know from our graduate tracking study that 30% of graduates choose their practice location based on practice culture and the team. So, what do your GPEx Connect practice profile and job vacancy say about your practice culture?

Typically, the context which sits behind this “practice culture” is the collegiate atmosphere created by the practice; sharing values for ongoing learning to inform patient care; practice support and camaraderie; trust nurtured within the practice between teams and cohesiveness.

Q. So how do you impart ‘culture’ into a job advertisement? A. GPEx Connect!

This is an opportunity to make your practice stand out. We urge you to make time to update your practice profile regularly, not only through the text but a warm, engaging picture or interesting facts about your team and the unique part of the world in which you are based. GPEx Connect practice profile pages will automatically rank high on Google searches and include your practice’s “Commitment to training and professional development” on their profile. Include information about your approach to education and training at all stages. Attract the best talent, matching your values.

6. Refreshing the GPEx brand

We are aware of the need to stay relevant in the eyes of our target market, those RMOs, Interns and upcoming Medical Students (Millennials and Generation Y) who are the next generation of GPs. We need to engage with them in their language, GPEx is therefore pleased to launch a refreshed look for its brand. We have injected some new energy into it and our communication, especially though digital channels in order to encourage junior doctors to think positively about General Practice. We will continue to work in this area to stay relevant and increase awareness of GP as a speciality and GPEx as the RTO of choice.

7. Financial incentives

We understand that relocating to an outer rural area can be expensive with, of course, additional travel costs to visit family and/or friends in the future, so GPEx has chosen to offer additional funding those working in selected MMM 5 – 7 locations.

Besides the financial assistance available to rural pathway registrars through the Australian Government, GPEx will provide paid travel to attend a placement interview at the selected MMM 5 – 7 training practices, a travel allowance of up to $2,500 per semester once placed in the location, and a relocation allowance of up to $2,500 per semester.

8. South Australian Rural Generalist Program

The team at GPEx is excited to be developing a South Australian Rural Generalist (SARG) Program in partnership with CHSALHN (RSS) Local Health Networks, SA Health local health networks, University of Adelaide and Flinders University Rural clinical schools. The aim of the program is to provide a South Australian context for the National Rural Generalist Pathway strategy. This starts in medical school and leads to a GP fellowship, with at least one advanced skill specific to the rural context.

Working with partners across the state, we aim for the program to be relevant to community needs with increased clinical services from doctors in training while they learn their craft as rural generalists. The SARG program is still in its early stages, but we look forward to working with GP practices in South Australia and developing an exciting and attractive program for our future rural GPs.

9. Intern Partnership with Country Health SA LHN (RSS)

GPEx is working closely with Country Health SA LHN, SA University rural hubs and our general practice partners to deliver a new initiative that supports rural interns undertaking rural general practice rotations in South Australia. This new program is structured to give these interns a broad exposure to rural general practice combined with a positive experience in a rural community, and support them as an active participant in the practice team while there.

The entire GP community is in this together, and we urge you to think about how you as individuals or teams can assist in spreading the positive message about General Practice and Rural General Practice, so we can continue to deliver health care education and training to all our communities.

Thank you for your support.

Christine Cook