Up to 400 general practitioners will train to work in regional Australia over the next four years, with the establishment of the NSW Nationals in the federal government’s Rural Generalist Training Scheme (RGTS) to boost doctor numbers in the bush.
The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) will deliver the government-funded $49.7 million program, with ACRRM providing up to 100 Rural Generalist GP training places each year.
NSW Nationals Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said the end goal of the RGTS was for patients to have increased access to primary health services in rural and remote communities.
“Rural and remote communities want safe and high-quality primary healthcare services delivered by well-trained GPs with training in an extended rural skill set,” Mr Coulton said.
“Our government is committed to making this happen by continuing to build a rural medical training pipeline.
“I want to acknowledge ACRRM’s hard work over the past 12 months to bring this program to fruition for aspiring rural generalists.
“By providing more rural training places, we will open more GPs’ eyes to the significant benefits of being a rural generalist and living in a regional community.”
Mr Coulton said rural generalist GPs were critical to the delivery of healthcare in rural and remote communities, and their specialist skills and training allowed them to provide medical care in a wider range of circumstances.
ACRRM President Dr Sarah Chalmers said the college was proud to be the provider of these specific rural and remote training placements.
“As the only medical college in Australia that exclusively trains doctors specifically to work in these locations, ACRRM is well placed to deliver a high quality, context-based program that will actively work towards correcting the maldistribution of doctors into rural and remote locations,” Dr Chalmers said.
“A career in rural and remote medicine is rewarding and exciting and the college has been training rural generalists for more than 20 years.
“We have a world-class, internationally recognised program that trains for general practice, emergency care and advanced training that incorporates other specialty skills to contribute to overall healthcare in these locations.
“We are champing at the bit to increase the number of training places, and continue to improve the health of rural and remote Australians.”
Mr Coulton said solving rural doctor shortages in the bush was complex and required a multifaceted approach.
”The NSW Nationals in the federal government have a strong record of delivering rural health program and reforms that benefit rural communities, the rural workforce and the training pipeline and we are always looking to improve our rural health policy settings,” Mr Coulton said.
“To have a lasting impact and create sustainable health care services in our rural communities, we need governments, the rural health sector and regional communities working together to establish the right mix of short, medium and long-term programs and incentives.”
The initial intake of 60 registrars will begin training by the second half of this year. The funding for the RGTS was announced in the 2018–2019 Budget as part of a measure to encourage GPs to areas where they were needed.
It also supports the development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway, which is a central element of the Australian Government’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy. The Pathway attracts, trains and retains highly skilled rural generalists in areas outside of the cities.
The NSW Nationals in the federal government also support rural generalist GP training through the Australian General Practice Training Program.