Is Australian General Practice in crisis?

Well no not really…

“General Practice is in crisis”
“No one listens to GPs”
“Morale in General Practice is Rock Bottom”
“It’s the same people, saying the same things expecting different outcomes”
“If only politicians listened”
“If only the profession worked together, was united”
“Bulk Billing rates at an all-time high, your government is creating affordable healthcare”
“GPs need more investment, they need more money”

To be honest, I’ve heard it all,

A recent Future Forum regards General Practice Training had to be one of the most unfortunate experiences I have sat through. A number of eminent people, joined by several early career clinicians, were led through a rehash of old history and the fostering of a black armband view of primary care. The questions dwelled on complex issues that couldn’t be deconstructed in the short time available to each speaker. It seems GPs are a cup-half-empty group.

GP politicians and the opinionated have been trying to create a burning platform for change, for years now, taking about disadvantage, disinvestment, disenchantment, and demoralization in the GP workforce. The most recent pointless debate is the decline in GP training numbers and the various “reasons” touted for this, none of which are probably any more valid than the rest.

Navel-gazing is only useful if you’re prepared to pull the fluff out eventually, rather than talk about it incessantly.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are getting on with business, of making “it” work within the constraints of the “system” we have. I have traveled to several continents in my international roles and I can say two things. Australian General Practice is pretty darn good by comparison to some, and that right across the World GPs make do for their patients. They make the best of the system of primary care they have, it’s a GP thing.

Most General Practitioners in Australia are doing OK, have meaningful careers and producing great outcomes for their patients. Most Australians will see a GP at least once this year and they will be satisfied 99% of the time. Most practices are already judged too high ethical standards. What most GPs would agree is that we could do “better” for our patients, our practices and for our communities.

“Better” is by definition iterative, building on firm foundations. It requires that we GPs acknowledge that the sky isn’t falling in, “Chicken Little” thinking needs to go.



“Better” means continuous safety and quality improvement, efficiencies in the use of the health professional best suited to the task at hand, accessibility, and affordability; amongst many things. It requires forward-thinking, innovation and flexibility to adapt to current or future health priorities.

I do not decry the serious workforce issues that face rural and regional Australia, or the affordability, access, and equity issues that continue to evolve for sectors of our community. There are wicked problems to solve.

I contend only that we need to stop talking crisis and start talking about real reform and change that will enable “better” care.

We’ve plenty of opportunities before us already to do just that…

One thought on “BETTER

  1. Hear Hear! Let’s change the narrative.
    We heard from the Department of Health that 90% of GP’s in training were satisfied with their training from their RTO. 91% were satisfied with their supervisor and 97% were satisfied with their clinical work.
    I sat in the audience at the future forum with a sinking heart. When I left medical school it was a time of loss of universal provider numbers the transition to the current system from the Family Medicine Program and GP was doomed. GP survived, grew and flourished.
    We should be celebrating our successes in rural generalism and congratulate the younger doctors who are coming through the system. We need to be telling younger doctors not our tales of woe but the joy that medicine brings us.
    Thanks Ewen


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