Birrell GP report defies reality

1 Mar 2013

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the ‘Too Many GPs’ report produced by demographer, Dr Bob Birrell, should be catalogued near the ‘science fiction’ section in libraries.

Dr Hambleton said the view of frontline primary care in Australia depicted by Dr Birrell’s report defies the reality of people in suburbs and rural communities struggling to access quality primary care because of the shortage of GPs.

“The report appears to rely on previously discredited analysis of the GP workforce that resulted in previous Governments cutting back on GP training, which led to the shortages we see today.

“You cannot use billings data to estimate full time equivalent GP numbers.

“The report’s conclusions do not sit well with the recent AIHW report, Medical Workforce 2011, which found that, while the supply of specialists-in-training, specialists, hospital non-specialists and other clinicians all increased, the supply of GPs fell from 111.9 to 109.7 full time equivalent per 100,000 population between 2007 and 2011.

“The AMA questions the report’s assertion that GPs are expensive to the taxpayer. The current Medicare rebate of $35.60 for a standard consultation is well below the true worth of a GP service as estimated by the AMA.

“Dr Birrell’s report fails to recognise the role that GPs play in ensuring that our health system delivers high quality health care in a cost effective way.

“Overall funding for GP services represents a relatively small part of the health budget, yet GPs deal with around 90 per cent of the problems they encounter.

“Health Workforce Australia – whose figures we do support – was established to provide advice to the Government on medical workforce.

“Its most recent report, Health Workforce 2025, confirmed that Australia is in the middle of a GP workforce shortage.

“Indeed, if Australia is to reduce its reliance on International Medical Graduate (IMG) GPs, then we must lift our training effort even further.

“We reject the report’s suggestion that the Federal Government must restrict access to Medicare provider numbers to better distribute the GP workforce.

“Addressing GP shortages, particularly in rural areas, requires a comprehensive approach that includes appropriate incentives, professional support, and takes into account the needs of a GP’s family members with respect to access to education and other family needs,” Dr Hambleton said.

The AMA’s plan to build a better rural and regional medical workforce is at