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11 Dec 2012

AMA Position Statement on Fostering Generalism in the Medical Workforce 2012

The AMA today released its new Position Statement on Fostering Generalism in the Medical Workforce 2012.

The term ‘generalist medical practitioner’ refers to GPs, rural generalists and general specialists, such as general surgeons and physicians who retain a broad scope of practice.

The Position Statement responds to the growing trend of fewer and fewer medical graduates choosing a generalist career path.

It recommends better training programs and career pathways, and greater recognition and support for the important work provided by generalists across the health system.

Reports suggest that currently only 20 per cent of general (non primary care) specialists practise some sort of generalist medicine in Australia, compared to 50 per cent in the United Kingdom and 40 per cent in New Zealand.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that generalists have been highly regarded specialists in local Australian communities for generations.

“They play a vital role in the health system as clinicians, teachers, and researchers in all settings, from tertiary public hospitals to remote practices.

“Many Australian families, especially in rural Australia, have been cared for by the local family doctor who ran the general practice, delivered babies, and performed minor operations.

“But, over the last decade, the medical workforce has become increasingly specialised, driven by changes in knowledge, technology, health service delivery, and health care financing.

“At the same time, many generalists are retiring or moving to other locations, and there is nobody with the skill set to replace them.

“The allure of generalist medical practice is in decline.

“The number of medical graduates choosing a generalist career path has decreased significantly, which means patients in some areas may not be getting the best access to the type of care they need when they need it.

“We need to rebuild our generalist workforce.

“This requires a renewed focus on training programs, and solid research and planning to meet generalist career requirements and ensure proper distribution of generalists to where they are most needed around the country.” Dr Hambleton said.

The Position Statement, which sets out actions to arrest the trend towards sub-specialisation and the decline of generalists in public and private practice, recommends:

  • Clearly defined training programs and pathways for generalist medical practitioners;
  • Greater recognition and support for generalist medical practitioners;
  • More comparable remuneration for generalist medical practitioners; and
  • Further work to quantify and predict generalist workforce requirements and distribution as a matter of urgency.

Health Workforce Australia (HWA) will be focusing on how to train more generalists in 2013.

The AMA Position Statement on Fostering Generalism in the Medical Workforce 2012 is at

11 December 2012

CONTACT:         John Flannery                       02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
                            Kirsty Waterford                    02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 11 Dec 2012