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Changes to the GP training environment

 By Dr Sally Banfield, an Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) trainee with Northern Territory General Practice Education in Central Australia, and is likely to complete vocational training in 2016 with an AST in remote medicine.

Like any changes, those made to the GP training environment in last year’s Federal Budget pose obvious threats but significant opportunities.

The medical community needs to remain united to sustain high-quality training and meet the diverse health needs of our country. To improve the training system, the experience, feedback and input of trainees is essential.

GP registrars often encounter undifferentiated patients and are required to make decisions on their own early on in their careers. We rely heavily on a broad prevocational training experience, followed by a well-structured and supportive vocational training program.

Currently, the delineation of training responsibilities between Government, colleges, regional training providers and the individual is often difficult to navigate.

Large variations in the delivery of vocational training programs mean confusion and often frustration for the registrar trying to meet the requirements for Fellowship.

As trainee numbers increase, both supervision and education capacity is being stretched, and new training methods need to be explored and shared between providers. This can all be improved in this time of change.

Current issues include defining the training and education roles of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and the regional training providers.

The potential for greater college involvement could provide a more seamless general practice training pipeline, with a stronger link to our profession and our colleagues.

Ultimately, we need a system that challenges, supports and mentors registrars to meet the requirements for safe independent practice.

The sustainability of the ‘apprenticeship model’ of training relies on a system that supports the large investment supervisors, educators and registrars put into excellence.

The newly formed GP Training Advisory Committee must continue to foster medical education, supervision and research opportunities for trainees.

The profession must work closely with Government to ensure the ultimate goal of meeting health equality for our community.

This change to the GP training environment can place further focus on drivers for servicing the most disadvantaged. We should use our increasing evidence base to influence selection and training delivery to drive change in workplace shortages.

This will need support from all sectors of the health care system across the training pipeline.

The transition will create points of tension and hurdles to overcome; but we should use this as an opportunity for development.

The Government and the medical profession need to continue to involve future general practitioners in this conversation. Collectively, we have the vision and the passion to meet the future needs of our community.