Remuneration only half of the problem

Lynnette Hoffman

writer

Lynnette Hoffman

Managing Editor

Lynnette Hoffman

 

Greater respect is crucial to solve the workforce crisis, GPs say

Respect is almost as important as remuneration if we want to attract and keep GPs, according to Healthed’s latest survey of 1600 doctors.

We asked GPs what would make the single biggest difference to attracting more people to general practice.

The perennial problem of pay, particularly compared to other professions and medical specialties, was picked by 37%.

But about one third of survey respondents said improving the way GPs are perceived, portrayed and treated by the media, government, other specialties and patients was paramount.

Despite the impact that factors such as bureaucracy and admin, onerous CPD requirements and excessive workload have on retention and job satisfaction, the survey suggests that GPs don’t perceive them as playing as big of a role when it comes to attracting people to the profession in the first place.

‘GPs are the experts, but we’re really bad at selling it’

With so many patients navigating complex conditions, multiple morbidities and medications, it’s increasingly important that politicians and the public understand how crucial a well-functioning general practice is to our healthcare system, says Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, GP and past president of the AMA who also helps lead the Australian GP Alliance.

“You do need the absolute expert in this field, which is the generalist—the experts in chronic disease, the experts in complexity—but we’re actually really bad at selling it and making it understood,” Dr Haikerwal said while discussing the GP crisis on Australian Doctors Federation’s Let’s Talk Medicine podcast this week.

“It’s always reduced to a couple of riddles by loud speaking shock jocks and ministers who have the ear of the press,” he continued. “We’ve actually got to take back the agenda and sell the benefit of what general practice is.”

Dr Peter McInerney, former Rural Doctors Association President, agreed.

“Over the years of working as a GP, I see that general practice has been disrespected by bureaucrats and most politicians,” he said on ADF’s podcast. “Just the continual under-funding, the removal of item numbers, look at things we used to get paid for like joint injections and reading ECGs, that have fallen by the wayside.”

Of course, remuneration and respect often go hand in hand.

“Obviously we should have parity with other medical specialists, full stop,” former RACGP president Dr Karen Price added. She said the disparity in funding for ED visits compared to primary care means patients are missing out on general practice care and GPs aren’t properly resourced. So it’s little wonder many feel ‘taken for granted,’ with women in particular leaving the profession “at the peak of their productivity.”

Public perception needs to change, GPs tell the College

In the survey, 1600 GPs scored the RACGP’s performance in professional and public advocacy as decidedly average, collectively giving it a ‘C’ or 3.1 out of 5. The rating suggests there’s room for improvement when it comes to how GPs are perceived and treated by the government, media, other specialties and the public at large.

When Healthed asked how GPs thought the College could make general practice a more attractive and satisfying career, better pay and more appreciation again topped the list.

“Be more vocal, and present in the media. Be less diplomatic with negotiations and more representative of what exactly we as GPs want and need. Workers’ unions get what they want because they have a hardline approach. GPs are valuable, but this is not sold,” explained one GP.

“Noble as medicine might be to the holder of a medical degree, to the government and the public we are just another profession—nothing more. The respect for the GP has plummeted in recent times, and I cannot see an organisation that has come close to restoring that former respect,” they continued.

“Provide actual advocacy for GPs; use the pharmacy guild as a benchmark,” another survey respondent said.

“Promote to other doctors, medical students and the general public what we are really doing every day in our jobs, so that we are valued for what we already do,” one GP summed up.

Many surveyed GPs felt the College should do more to promote the value GPs provide to the community and decision-makers—and the case for why they should be compensated as such.

“Encourage government at all levels to treat GPs with the same respect and consideration of remuneration that is given to procedural practitioners,” one survey respondent said.

“Raise awareness to the public about how underpaid GPs are for the amount of work we do,” another suggested.

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Lynnette Hoffman

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Lynnette Hoffman

Managing Editor

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