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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 10 Hansard (15 August) . . Page.. 3128..


Health—general practitioners

MS PORTER: My question is to the Minister for Health, Minister, on 2 August 2013 the ACT Medicare Local released its GP workforce scoping study. Could you please outline for the Assembly the findings of that study?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter for the question. In October 2012 Rural Health Workforce Australia was contracted by the ACT Medicare Local on behalf of the GP workforce working group, with the funding provided by ACT Health, to undertake to research the current GP workforce in the ACT. This research was commissioned after anecdotal advice that the GP shortage was easing and that practices were reopening their books and many new practices had been established.

The main findings from the report were that there were currently 400 GPs practising in the ACT, equating to 305 full-time equivalent GPs, an increase of 35 GPs compared to the 2009 task force report. The 2009 survey did not include registrars in the 35 GPs. The GP to population ratio based on the headcount from this study and the 2011 ABS census data is on par with the national average of one GP for every 893 people. A higher than average number of ACT GPs work part time, which is similar to what was found in 2009. More than 80 per cent of practices hold general practice accreditation, including 95 per cent of group practices. Eighty-eight per cent of GPs are taking new patients from all sectors, with a further six per cent accepting new patients in more limited circumstances—for example, ANU students and staff are eligible to use the ANU health service. Ninety-seven per cent of GP practices provide access or refer to an after-hours service and 67 per cent have at least one GP who visits residential aged-care facilities. Again, that was a big issue of pressure in 2009.

A couple of the issues identified to keep a close eye on are that 26 per cent of GPs state it is likely that they will retire or move outside the ACT in the next five years and that the recruitment time to employ a GP is 68 weeks. So they are the two areas that we will need to continue to focus on.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Porter.

MS PORTER: Minister, how was the scoping study conducted?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter again. The study was conducted by surveying GP practice managers to provide the snapshot of the current workforce, assessing the future career intentions of the current workforce through the survey, conducting a literature review of the workforce and modelling analysis to inform future requirements. The survey response was very high with 91 per cent of practices and 56 per cent of GPs responding.

This information will assist. It confirms what we were suspecting and what we were being told by general practitioners—that the worst of the GP shortage for the time being is over and that we have seen some easing of it. But, as I said in my previous answer, there are issues to continue to focus on, including the quality of care provided by GPs.


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