Overseas-trained doctors seeking visas to work as General Practitioners (GPs) will be required to obtain a Health Workforce Certificate from a Rural Workforce Agency thanks to the Nationals in Government.

Under this new requirement, overseas-trained doctors will be directed away from well-serviced metropolitan areas to areas of workforce need, especially regional, rural and remote communities.

This initiative will reduce the numbers of overseas-trained doctors entering the primary health care system by around 200 each year for the next four years under the skilled migration program.

The number of GPs in Australia has increased three times more than population growth over the past decade, due to a surge in locally-trained medical graduates and a continued high intake of overseas trained doctors.

Federal Nationals Minister for Regional Services, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said the Visas for GPs initiative would allow the Government to better manage the growth and distribution of the national medical workforce.

“The Visas for GPs initiative won’t reduce the number of GPs currently providing services but will reduce the rise in doctors in city areas and improve numbers in rural areas where they are needed,” Ms McKenzie said. “The new requirements will ensure the right balance of specialist GPs is available to the Australian community, while also providing opportunities for Australian trained doctors.”

“The Nationals in Government are absolutely committed to improving access to high-quality health services for those Australians living in regional areas.”

The Visas for GPs initiative was announced in the 2018-19 Budget as part of the Government’s $550 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy—an historic 10-year plan to meet current and future health workforce challenges across regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Department of Health is working closely with the Department of Home Affairs to implement the visa requirement.