Canberra sees “lite” on rural GP training

The government is restoring a “lite” version of a popular prevocational general practice training scheme that it axed in 2014 as a waste of money.  

Applications are open for rural clinical schools to pin down 240 intern placements  in rural general practice to be made available under the scheme, budgeted at $10 million a year, the government said. 

“It is a step in the right direction,” RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said, adding he believed exposure to general practice should be a compulsory part of medical training for all doctors.   

After the 2014 budget, the RACGP and ACRRM argued strongly that the previous training program – the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP) – should be revived and modified to save administrative costs, rather than scrapped.  

ACRRM President Dr Ruth Stewart also welcomed the new scheme, saying the loss of the PGPPP had left a “black hole” between graduation and vocational training for trainee doctors interested in general practice.

The heads of the two GP colleges spoke today, after Health Minister Greg Hunt called for applications for the 240 places for interns under the new Rural Junior Doctor Innovation Fund.

“They will train in a variety of primary care settings, such as general practice and Aboriginal Medical Services,” the minister said in a joint statement with Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie.  

“This will improve the pathway for new graduates into challenging and rewarding careers as doctors with the skills needed by rural communities.”    

Internships in general practices in areas classified RA2-5 will be allotted through rural clinical schools attached to universities, which also organise hospital placements for interns.  The schools have a deadline of April 12 to secure funding for the places.

The government said the 240 accredited intern rotations under the new rural-focused scheme were equal to 60 full-time places. 

The PGPPP had supplied 975 places of 10 to 14 weeks’ duration but cost more than $50 million a year before it was axed.

A notice posted on the Health Department’s website after the 2014 decision said the PGPPP had been introduced at a time when there was not enough demand for GP training places and it was necessary to attract hospital doctors to GP careers, “but that is no longer the case”.

Dr Seidel said the college would have preferred to see the PGPPP continued, but was pleased that pre-vocational GP training was being restored.