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GP workforce ageing despite influx of women

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Almost half the nation’s GPs are now women but the overall workforce is ageing rapidly, underlining calls for greater investment in general practice in order to improve access to primary health care.

A snapshot of the GP workforce by the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) project has found that 43 per cent of family doctors in 2013-14 were women, up from 32 per cent a decade earlier.

But, highlighting the need for a significant influx of new GPs in coming decade if access to primary care is to be maintained and improved, the study found a large proportion of the current workforce are rapidly approaching retirement age.

The study found that 48 per cent of GPs were aged 55 years or older last financial year, a big jump from 34 per cent a decade earlier.

As the workforce ages, GPs are cutting back on the hours they are working – the proportion working more than 40 hours a week has fallen from 42 to 31 per cent in the past decade.

Reflecting the rise of commercial practice groups and the aging of the GP workforce, particularly in rural and regional areas, small and solo practices are disappearing.

The proportion of GPs working solo had dropped from 12 to 9 per cent in the past decade, and the percentage of those working in practices of two to four doctors has shrunk from 36 to 23 per cent. Meanwhile, those working in large group practices of 10 more virtually doubled over the same period, and now a quarter of GPs work in large practices.

Adrian Rollins