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GP training boost in the works: Dutton

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Hopes are mounting for an imminent boost to GP training after Health Minister Peter Dutton declared the Abbott Government was “implementing” an election promise for increased teaching incentives.

Hinting that the May Budget will include an increased allocation for general practice training, Mr Dutton told the General Practice Registrars Australia conference that the Government was working to deliver on its election commitment to provide a $119 million boost to GP teaching payments under the Practice Incentive Program.

Despite what Mr Dutton warned would be a “tough” Budget, he said the Government was “implementing that promise”.

It would mean that rural and remote GPs providing training would receive an additional benefit in recognition of the “additional challenges” they face, the Minister said, adding that these practices would also be eligible for an extra $52 .5 million of infrastructure grants to help upgrade their training infrastructure.

Mr Dutton said the infrastructure grants would be provided on the basis of a matching commitment from the practice: “This will leverage private investment and help ensure the most efficient and productive use of the taxpayers’ dollars”.

He said the changes were part of efforts to improve the medical training system, which is coming under increasing strain from a surge in the number of medical students.

The Minister said the Federal Government was working with the private sector and its State and Territory counterparts to better manage the system through the development of national medical training plans.

He said the focus should not only be on improved public sector efficiency, but also tapping into innovative ideas from the private sector.

“We should be leveraging the private sector, not just for services, but also to meet workforce training challenges,” he said, citing as an example the Commonwealth Medical Internship initiative.

The Minister said that the initiative, through public-private partnerships, had provided training for an additional 76 doctors this year alone.

“Priority for new training positions will be in rural and regional areas to help bolster the medical workforce in communities who need them most,” Mr Dutton said.

“And each Commonwealth-funded intern has a rural return-of-service obligation.”

Adrian Rollins