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GP training – the path ahead

This is a tumultuous time for GP practice and training.

A four-year freeze on Medicare rebate indexation is expected to force many doctors to abandon bulk billing for their patients, and may even threaten the viability of some practices, while the adoption and subsequent abandonment of several different proposals for a patient co-payment have jolted the specialty.

To top it all, the Government has launched a major overhaul of the GP training system, axing key bodies including General Practice Education and Training and the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP) in last year’s Budget.

Understandably, it is has been a deeply unsettling period for GPs that has done little to encourage aspiring family doctors to take up the speciality.

In a step toward giving shape to the new training system, Health Minister Sussan Ley last month revealed the Australian General Practice Training program would be delivered through 11 training regions, and announced the creation of the profession-led General Practice Training Advisory Committee to advise the Government on the design and delivery of training.

In addition, a tender process to select GP training providers for each of the regions is to get underway in time to enrol students in 2016.

But there remain many unanswered questions about the provision of GP training – the AMA, for example, has proposed a community residency program for junior medical officers to fill what it sees as a gaping hole left by the abolition of the PGPPP.

The issue of GP training and what can be done to attract trainees and ensure they get a quality education will the focus of discussion during a key session at the AMA National Conference being held in Brisbane from 29 to 31 May.

The General practice training – the future is in our hands session, to be held on Saturday, 30 May at 2.15pm, will feature presentations from leading GP practitioners and educators.

Three of the presenters, Dr Penny Need, Dr Sally Banfield and Dr Danielle McMullen, give their views on what lies ahead for GP training and the specialty.