New CPD onerous and stressful for many, survey shows

Sophia Auld

writer

Sophia Auld

Medical Writer

Sophia Auld

More than one in 10 GPs have yet to complete the CPD requirements for 2023, Healthed’s first survey of 2024 has found.

Data shows 12% of 2,451 respondents were unable to complete the requirements by 31 December, and plan to use the grace period extended to 31 March by the RACGP.

More regional and rural GPs had difficulty meeting requirements, at 14% and 15% respectively, compared to 9% for their metropolitan colleagues*. One such respondent found it “very difficult and stressful with working long hours as a country GP.”

GPs working fewer than 12 hours per week were also more likely to need the grace period, at 14%. This may suggest the requirements place additional strain on those already juggling work and other commitments.

Issues such as caring for family members and personal health problems made completing the 50 hours more challenging, some respondents reported.

Older GPs were the hardest hit, with almost one in five (18%) of those aged 75 or older needing to use the grace period. This underscores how the new system could accelerate exodus from the profession, coming on the back of 2023 survey results showing more than a third of older GPs were bringing forward retirement plans thanks to CPD.

A respondent in the latest survey said they only completed their CPD “after a huge amount of stress which almost caused me to retire.”

Many also reported finding the new system burdensome. It was “extremely stressful”, one said, “enough to seriously consider relinquishing medical registration.”

“Not easily achieved at all, despite working at it consistently all through the year,” said another.

Teething problems or imposition on already overloaded doctors?

Dr Mukesh Haikerwal AC – GP, Deputy Chair of the Australian General Practice Alliance and former AMA National President – says some teething problems are to be expected with a new scheme, including for individual doctors.

“I think you’ll find that many have probably met the criteria but probably haven’t learned how to upload that onto the portal,” he says. “It is about getting used to the system and a new scheme.

“The other underlying question is how much CME is reasonable and is the new requirement reasonable, fair and justifiable. I think the jury is definitely out on that.”

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins says 2023 was “a transition year with a lot of learning for everyone.”

“Our teams are hoping refinements to our CPD app, dashboard, and website, and more direct support, will make things easier for our members. We’re also one year into the new system – there are improvements to be made and the Medical Board is open to feedback, which we’ll continue to provide.”

GP and health industry consultant Dr Joe Kosterich says Healthed’s survey findings show the system is more onerous on hardworking people who are already under a lot of pressure. “Clearly those on the receiving end have a different view of the regime that’s being imposed than those sitting in their tea rooms who imposed it,” he says.

It highlights how some GPs are particularly adversely affected by the changes, he adds. “The government’s forever shedding crocodile tears about doctors in the country, but they’ve made it even less attractive to go to regional and remote areas where it’s already harder going and difficult to attract doctors.”

Demographic data indicates female doctors are more likely to work fewer hours, he says, so the system probably impacts them disproportionately.

Bureaucratically driven with questionable benefit

Dr Kosterich says the findings also uncover some deeper concerns.

“The question that was never answered was what was the problem with the previous system and why was this change introduced? Are we expecting a healthier nation, that people will live longer, less complications from surgery, less misdiagnosis?

“The people on the imposing end are yet to tell us why they think it was a good idea. Or more importantly, what is the outcome measure that they’re applying.”

It is also more bureaucratic, he adds. “How do you end up with 12.5 hours times four? You could say they decided it was an hour a week for 50 weeks per year. You could make it 48 hours and allow four weeks off but no, only two weeks off for doctors. And you need these 12.5 points in each section. It just says that nobody has thought this through.”

The survey found achieving enough points in the ‘measuring outcomes’ category was particularly problematic. Comments like “Need MO 2.5 hrs,” and “MO lacking” were among the most common.

The RACGP agrees that CPD requirements should be “informed by data and reflect what we know works,” Dr Higgins says. “We would welcome an assessment of how the changes have affected both GPs’ quality care and their wellbeing, as there was significant concern from GPs ahead of the changes.”

What your colleagues are saying

“Completed but had great difficulty getting RP and MO points throughout the year.”

“It adds to the difficulty of staying a GP when we should be encouraging more to join and stay.”

“It was a stressful all-encompassing process.”

“The hour requirement of the new CPD is too demanding!”

Need more CPD for 2023? Don’t panic

If you still need more points for 2023, the grace period goes until 31 March 2024. When you log in to your RACGP dashboard, click the button to allocate your points to 2023.

Struggling to find last-minute ‘measuring outcomes’ activities? Healthed may be able to help. Contact us on 1300 797 792 or info@healthed.com.au to talk about some options.

*Sample sizes for the subgroup analyses are small, so these results are suggestive only.

Note: This story was updated on 19 February to reflect final survey data, and to include comment from the RACGP that was provided after initial publication.

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Sophia Auld

writer

Sophia Auld

Medical Writer

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