Our world is in a state of constant and rapid change, requiring individuals and organisations to be outward-looking, innovative and collaborative to seize opportunities and protect against risk. Meanwhile, the media confirms daily that our current health system faces many challenges, or maybe opportunities?

Within GP training we have seen a significant decline in junior doctor applications for general practice training nationwide in the last 2 years, especially in South Australia, and especially for the rural pathway. The GPEx graduate tracking study has revealed that SA AGPT graduates trained in SA are remaining in SA, with 39% retained in rural regions. However, if applicant numbers are not filled this presents significant challenges to our General Practice workforce of the future!

GPEx has committed to deliver high quality, responsive and forward-thinking education and training, that provides South Australia with a skilled and sustainable General Practice workforce that meets the needs of local communities.

To do this we need to:

  • Ensure that we are able to train GPs for the future – but what will this future look like and what will the skill set of future GP be
  • Work with other stakeholders to attract and retain GPs within areas where they are most needed- but will this require different models in the future?

With this in mind GPEx have begun a Future Thinkers project which aims to engage with our broad range of stakeholders and work together to:

  • Understand the current environment and emerging evidence
  • Identify future threats and opportunities
  • Prioritise areas for development and collaboration
  • Provide and implement recommendations and solutions

As such we have workshopped with our Practice Managers to identify challenges and opportunities facing General Practice. Following this GPEx also hosted a Future Thinkers Day with a selection of stakeholders, to reflect on a range of views from across SA communities. It was very helpful for GPEx to hear current perspectives on challenges and opportunities from supervisors, registrars, practice managers and medical students, (both rural and urban). Having The University of Adelaide, Flinders University and CHSALHN talk from their perspective about current issues highlighted the complexities of our shared challenges. GPEx remain hopeful that as we build our shared understanding we will together develop solutions to our challenges.

Some reflections and actions emerging from both of these workshops are:

  • Gathering evidence from medical students and junior doctors as to their life/career aspirations and choice is fundamental and GPEx is now working with CHSALHN to plan a research project to explore junior doctor career decision making and provide recommendations for future attraction to General Practice.
  • Maintaining exposure to General Practice during and after medical school is an important factor in influencing career choices. GPEx have successfully lobbied to deliver the general practice education component of the Department of Health funded CHSALHN Rural Intern program. This program has been launched now and is linked with the promotion of AGPT Selection 2020.
  • GPEx need to work with our stakeholders to creatively plan how registrars can access opportunities for increased exposure to rural General Practice. Recent research by GPEx shows that one of the significant predictors of graduates working in a rural location is the exposure they have to rural practice during their AGPT training. This is across both training pathways. In fact we found that 20% of GPEx graduates working rurally were actually trained on the General Pathway.

Key skills for the future GP will be:

  • establishing and maintaining the doctor-patient relationship within an increasingly changing environment
  • the ability to adapt to and thrive within a disruptive environment (embracing relevant ‘disruptive technologies’ and regionally appropriate models of patient care)
  • leadership and advocacy in order to lead the primary health care team and advocate for quality patient care.

GPEx will continue to work through our Quality Education and Research Committee to review how these skills are fostered and nurtured within training.

This is just the beginning. GPEx will continue to consult broadly with stakeholders through our Future Thinkers project and looks forward to acting on the recommendations made through this important process. We hope that in order to face the challenges for healthcare in SA we can work together, bravely share the challenges each of us are facing and collaboratively work towards solutions that will see South Australian patients and communities receiving exceptional healthcare, and South Australian GP registrars receiving exceptional training.