Ultimate Guide to GP Jobs in Australia 2020

With the end of the year approaching, Deloitte published their General Practitioner Workforce Report – with findings about factors that will impact General Practitioners in Australia for the decade ahead until 2030.

The forecasting in Deloitte’s report warns of an increasingly under supplied GP Workforce in both regional and urban metropolitan areas in Australia by 2030. They have estimated the deficit head count will be approx. 9300 GPs, around 25% of the total GP Workforce.

The most problematic factors to impact the supply and demand of qualified General Practitioners are estimated to be centred around –

  • Australia’s Population Growth; which may lead to issues in the supply of qualified GPs and the adequate distribution of qualified GPs in regional and urban areas in Australia
  • Increasing Incomes; Australians have been impacted by out-of-pocket expenses and income factors will continue to impact healthcare expenditures in Australia that is tied to the demand for GP services
  • Increasing Chronic Diseases; rates for chronic diseases among the Australian population have been on the rise, expect GP services to focus on qualified GPs and Nurses that can assist with Chronic Disease Management
  • Increasing Mental Health Conditions; more and more GPs (around 62% of GP survey respondents) found that the most common reason patients visited them this past year was Mental Health, expect GP services to focus on qualified Mental Health GP and Nursing support

The purpose of this Ultimate Guide is to provide general information about GP Jobs in Australia with Factors that are important to know and Trends that will shape the future workforce and healthcare industry in 2020. 

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Ultimate Guide to GP Jobs in Australia 2020

GP Jobs in 2020: Job Trends

GP Jobs in 2020: Industry Trends 

GP doctor medical equipment

GP Jobs in 2020: Job Trends

Soft Skills Every Doctor Needs

With the Future of Health report released this year by CSIRO, the below shifts are discussed in the healthcare industry:

1. From treating illnesses to managing health and wellbeing

2. From one-size-fits-all solutions to precision-based health solutions

3. From a reactive system to a more holistic and predictive approach

4. From trying to extend life to improving the quality of life over a lifetime

Soft skills are a key factor in adapting to industry-wise shifts in healthcare. They are the skills that a lot of us need to be good at in order to provide the quality services and communication we need to. 

A lack of soft skills can limit your potential, or even be the downfall of your medical career. By developing strong empathy, teamwork, and communication skills, you can run your patient books more smoothly, deliver results that please everyone, and even positively influence your personal life by improving how you interact with others.

The previous 5 Soft Skills we explored were:

  • Solid Interpersonal Skills
  • Time Management
  • Self Confidence
  • Empathy
  • Constructive Feedback

We also further expanded into the Soft Skills topics of Interpersonal Skills and Time Management, as well as the importance of having Curiosity and Self-Care for doctors.

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Up-Skill in Skin Cancer Services

The Cancer Council of Australia (CCA) estimates that two in three Australians may be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they reach the age of 70. 

Findings from them (CCA) also suggest that in Australia:

  • Each year skin cancers make up for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers
  • Exposure to the sun is believed to be the main cause 
  • Over 1 million GP consultations happen because of it 
  • Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, roughly two to three times more than countries such as Canada, the US and the UK

The CCA recommends patients to see their GP immediately if they think they have any suspicious spots, moles or freckles. Both new ones and if there are any changes to the ones patients already had. 

Qualified General Practitioners are equipped with knowledge to help patients understand their personal risk factors for skin cancer. They can also: 

  • Examine the patient’s skin
  • Treat some types of skin cancers themselves 
  • Refer the patient to a specialist if required 
  • Provide care and follow-ups
  • Provide information on skin cancer prevention

Applying sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer

Australia’s Future Health Workforce – Dermatology report showed that General Practitioners are a crucial  element in the skin cancer health workforce.

The Medicare data from the recent years reported that in 2015 a total of 379 GPs were classified as performing a high level of skin cancer services, with approx 2,107 services per year.

And 1,140 GPs were classified as performing a moderate level of services, with approx 589 per year. Comparing it to the dermatologists workforce, the report showed that each year skin cancer clinic general practitioners are providing services approx 1.5 times that of services claimed with Medicare by specialist dermatologists.

GPs are the first line of patient care, and the Advance Care Directives (ACD) encourages them to up-skill and further educate in skin cancer surveillance and management.

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GP Locum Jobs in Australia

A locum GP is employed temporarily in hospitals or GP practices. Generally, the demand for locum doctors increases when various leave days are taken by the regular medical staff and they need temporary replacing. Other times, certain areas of Australia are so remote that full-time local doctors are tough to find and therefore locums are sought to fly in and out. Ongoing patient care is key and therefore some locations in Australia rely on a combination of both regular and locum doctors. 

As pointed out by the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), many doctors choose to do locum work at some point in their careers, even if just for a short period of time. For some, it is an interesting, lucrative and fulfilling way to spend their annual leave. For others it is a chance to experience and learn more about a new and different environment.

A locum position can come with a number of benefits including higher pay rates, flexibility with your available time, new experiences to gain and the opportunity to travel to various places in Australia - both inland, coastal and on islands. It does come with a strict set of requirements though before a doctor can work as a locum. 

Furthermore, an article published this year in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) revealed that an average of 16.5 percent of doctors working in the NSW public health system are locums, who are usually hired through a medical recruitment agency. 

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NSW Health Locum Distribution

Overseas Doctors and Rural GP Workforce Challenges

Locums have historically always been a crucial factor of Australia's healthcare. The distribution of qualified Doctors to cover all necessary areas of Australia has always been problematic. And if Deloitte's forecasting report is highlighting the right factors, the GP Workforce situation is not going to improve easily. 

For regional areas this becomes a lot tougher to manage. Telehealth has been increasingly helping remote communities with access to doctors but only the Specialist consultations are eligible for a Medicare rebate and currently limited for the GPs.

Access to more onsite doctors for these regional communities is even tougher. They have been relying on a combination of factors such as hospitals, Flying doctors, Telehealth, local doctors as well as locums. And while some of the Rural Workforce Agencies are anticipating more locally trained doctors by 2022, the ideal scenario for doctors to work in regional cities is still far from perfect.

There is a large portion of overseas-trained doctors working in regional towns for their training and visas. But the conditions for these doctors to settle in permanently and provide the kind of continuity of care that is preferred are still not favourable.

Common issues we hear when speaking to doctors are:

  • Remuneration and relocation packages attractive enough for a locally trained doctor to stay or for an overseas trained doctor to relocate
  • Favourable city amenities and community connections for a doctor’s family to settle in
  • Supportive practice staff that can help a doctor to settle in
  • Network of doctors in the city or nearby that will allow for holiday and fatigue breaks
  • New DPA and MMM Workforce Shortage location restrictions

Under the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, the growth of Australia’s medical workforce will be better managed by regulating the number of overseas trained doctors coming to work in Australia and directing them to areas of need around the country. 

The aim is to divert doctors from over-serviced metropolitan areas to areas of workforce need, especially in rural and remote areas.

Through the Skilled Migration Program requirements, the number of overseas trained doctors entering Australia to work in primary health care will be reduced by 10% annually over a 4-year period.

This will be a gradual process to ensure the right balance of qualified GPs are available, while also providing opportunities for Australian trained doctors.

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Doctor seeing a patient

GP Salaries in Australia

According to Payscale, the average annual salary for a GP in Australia in 2019 can fluctuate around $129,721. However, some GPs could earn a lot more than that and daily average earnings for GP Jobs around $2000 are possible.

GP’s salary may vary greatly depending on a number of contributing factors to the position. Below are some of the elements that may influence how much a doctor can earn.

  • Type of Contract 
  • Location of the Job
  • GP Skills & Type of Work
  • Location of the General Practice
  • Percentage of Billings 

A locum GP salary may vary depending on a number of factors. Daily rates for GP Locums could start from $1000 and go upwards of $2000 and $2500. Important factors to consider are the locations of the jobs (the more remote it is the stronger the daily rate becomes), the experience level of the doctor (if only covering GP work or also hospital ED/on-call), duration of the job (i.e. 1x day or 1x week or a few months at a time, all depending on doctors' availability). 

There are also some other benefits for GP locums such as having travel and accommodation expenses either included or reimbursed as well as Salary packaging options that help with a doctor's personal accounting and higher take-home pay. 

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GP Jobs in 2020: Industry Trends 

Bulk Billing Out-of-Pocket Expenses

This is a complex issue to put in perspective. Because of the Medicare rebate freeze there has been a lack of proper indexation of Medicare items to reflect with the inflation affecting patients. Decisions for indexation as a result were benchmarked against the wage price index instead of the consumer price index.

Connecting the wrong statistics can lead to misleading information as is currently debated.

While there have been indications GP bulk billing has increased by 4% up to 2018, it is not the main indicator for the claim of ‘decreasing out-of-pocket expenses for patients’ for example. Some of the statistics need more context to understand what picture they are painting. In this case, the % increase relates more to the number of Bulk-billed items being indexed and not the number of GP consultations fully bulk billed without an out-of-pocket expense.

Measurements of out-of-pocket expenses have also been tracked by the Department of Health’s statistics and those have actually increased by 28% for a GP consultation and by 40% for a Specialist for the same period up to 2018.

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Heart and doctor instrument-1

Patient Delays to GP Visits

Out-of-Pocket expenses and the general income of Australian can also greatly impact the actual number of GP visits that patients attend in a year.

In the new release, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that of the people who needed to see a GP, 22.8% delayed or did not see a GP over the past 12 months, a decrease of 6.5% since the last year's period.

The result are from the Patient Experience Survey which collected information from people aged 15 years and over about their experiences with health services in the last 12 months.

The report also highlights that General Practitioners were the most common health service people visited. Around 8 in 10 people (82.8%) saw a GP, followed by dental professionals (49.0%) and medical specialists (35.5%).

A recent KPMG report suggested that community-based Preventive and Primary Care are preferred by the general public over hospital visits. This is due to fewer complications, lower mortality rates, cost savings and better patient outcomes in a lot of cases.

Private health insurers have asked to cover services outside hospitals that currently attract a Medicare benefit, such as GP visits. Australians are not always able to cover medical expenses incurred outside of the hospital system with their current private health insurance policies.

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Problems in the Private Health Insurance Industry

And not only could private health insurance impact Patient's GP Visits, it can also impact

In Australia, there are 37 Private Health Insurers. It is estimated 80% of the consumers are with 5 of the main players - Bupa, Medibank, HCF, NIB and HBF, in no particular order.

It seems there is an unhappy mix of what the purpose of private health insurance can be. On the one hand, private health insurance can Compliment the public health services. But it can also Substitute. 

We have previously written about the potential problems that may arise from trying to encourage Complimenting and Substituting health insurance - both to patients and doctors in Australia. Changes in this space will impact the industry and it is important to keep track of what will happen.

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Attractive female doctor working on her laptop in her office

My Health Record in Australia

My Health Record was built by the Australia Digital Health Agency. The ADHA estimates around 20 million clinical documents are now online. Some of those include 3.3 million discharge summaries, 10 million pathology reports and 2.1 diagnostic imaging report.

Looking at the figures, General Practice is leading the way with My Health Record. Over 7000+ practices are enrolled, compared to 4700+ pharmacies, 2700+ additional healthcare providers such as Allied Health, 900+ Public and Private hospitals, 200+ Aged Care Residential services and around 100 Pathology and Diagnostic Imaging providers. These figures are expected and encouraged to keep increasing throughout 2020. 

With My Health Record, a GP can access information such as pathology results, prescriptions and hospital discharge letters, all which can help in making informed decisions about their patients. 

My Health Record could also help to prevent medication errors that lead to harmful and Adverse Drug Events by increasing the accessibility to patient information.

Unpredictability is also one of the factors My Health Record can assist patients and doctors with. One such case happened in Sydney, with My Health Record being credited in helping a GP to save one of her patients from an unnecessary hospitalisation because something unpredictable happened. 

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Doctor's National Helpline

An updated report this year from a 2013 Beyond Blue study found that more than 12,000 doctors experience high psychological distress, significantly greater (3.4%) than the general population (0.7%).

Additional findings of the study include up to 21% of respondents reporting a history of depression, 6% had an existing diagnosis, approximately 9% of doctors experienced an anxiety disorder (compared to 5.9% of the population) and 3.7% reported a current diagnosis (compared to 2.7% of the population). The most common sources of work-related stress were the need to balance work and personal responsibilities (26.8%), too much to do at work (25%), responsibility at work (20.8%), long work hours (19.5%), and fear of making mistakes (18.7%). 

Deloitte's report found that Mental Health issues will  be even more on the rise; so Doctors’ health needs to be considered a national problem as they help their patients and deal with their own lives. 1 National Helpline for support will be a strong focus for support in 2020. 

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Aged care doctor with a patient relaxing

Opioids Marketing to Doctors

Targin, a strong opioid we have already mentioned, has officially been announced as being the target of an investigation into how compliant its promotional material has been within the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct.

Multiple doctors in Australia have spoken out against the opioids usage and warn about the alarming negative impacts of them in the United States. Even the media and some journalists who have written books about opioid addictions have chimed in hoping to inspire and make a change. 

More on this will follow and how it will impact the Pharmacy industry as well. 

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Gorilla Jobs Love Sign Healthcare

Gorilla Jobs can assist you with exploring a variety of job opportunities across our large network of clients looking for qualified staff. Our experienced consultants in the Doctor, Medical Imaging and Pharmacy divisions look forward to helping you.

Speak to one of our Senior Consultants today and find out how they can help you with your career in 2020. 

We also have more useful tips and fun facts on our Gorilla Jobs Blogs.

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