What does the RACGP General Practice Health of the Nation 2020 report say about the profession? Find out more information summarized from the comprehensive yearly report.
Just as monitoring the health of patients is a key function of GPs and healthcare professionals more broadly, monitoring the health of the general practice sector is an important function of the RACGP.
To this, each year the RACGP brings out its annual “General Practice Health of the Nation” report.
RACGP Health of the Nation 2020
This comprehensive report offers compelling insights into the state of general practice across the country. It is compiled from responses from more than 1700 RACGP Fellows and incorporates information and data from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey and various government publications.
Importantly, it approaches this health check on general practice from both the point of view of patients and GPs. In his introduction to the report, acting RACGP president Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda points to the challenging year the country has faced and how now more than ever how essential GPs are.
Applauding their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shenouda still sees significant challenges on the horizon, particularly around mental health and “the possible downstream effects of people delaying or avoiding seeking care during the pandemic”, which will, in turn, put GPs under more pressure from those seeking ongoing support.
In terms of the report itself, we have pulled out some of the key takeaways and insights into how GPs fared in 2020.
Who, Where, What, How
The key gender characteristics of the workforce still indicate a slight leaning towards male practitioners (53% to 47%) across 8147 practices. In terms of age demographics, of interest to anyone currently seeking a GP job, 37% of the general practice workforce is aged 55+ and therefore technically approaching retirement.
In terms of GP to patient ratios, Queensland leads the pack with 125.4 GPs per 100,000 people, with NSW just behind on 120.7. The two territories have the lowest numbers - the ACT sits at 92.9 and NT at 94. Particularly in terms of the NT, this partially reflects the ongoing issue of there being fewer GPs in remote locations than major cities, yet another factor to consider if you are currently looking for a GP job.
The year 2020 saw 22m Australians visit a GP - patients saw their GP more than any other healthcare professional, with 72% of males and 75% of females attending their GP 2-11 times during the year.
The median wait time from appointment being made to consultation was 24 hours, with each visit averaging 16 minutes (down from 17 in 2019), meaning that on average GPs saw 102 patients per week (up from 94 in 2019), with the most common presentations being:
Patients consistently reported very positive experiences with their GP, with 90% feeling their GP spends enough time with them and almost 95% feeling respected in the way their GP treats them.
Despite some misgivings about funding levels (6 in 10 GPs expressed concerns about the financial viability of their practice), job satisfaction was high to very high across all metrics, most notably:
- 91% of GPs were happy with how much responsibility they were given
- 90% were happy with their colleagues
- 94% were satisfied with the variety of work
- 83% were happy with hours of work (up from 80% in 2019)
- 77% were satisfied with recognition of the work they do
When compared to other healthcare professionals, other specialists reported a similar overall satisfaction level of 91%, whereas hospital doctors reported a markedly lower satisfaction level of 80%.
Telehealth: A major change in the professional landscape
Clearly, 2020 was not a “normal” year for anyone in any profession, but particularly for GPs it has involved much agility and tenacity in the way they have responded in the workplace.
When the pandemic hit, the government took a range of decisive actions to manage the spread, but a major measure that impacted GPs was the introduction of Medicare-subsidised telehealth.
With 96% of respondents noting telehealth increased during the pandemic, 67% of GPs felt more positive towards using telehealth, with the main reasons being the MBS supporting telehealth, patients responding favourably to it and the safety it brought to the ongoing operation of general practice.
And the 7 in 10 GPs who thought telehealth should continue after the pandemic have had their wish answered with the Federal Government announcing on November 27 that universal whole-of population telehealth has been made permanent.
What this means for the make-up of consultations going forward (actual vs telehealth) and the impact this has on GPs will make for interesting reading in the 2021 report.
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