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Report Shows GP Numbers Declining

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Report shows GP numbers declining

A New Zealand Medical Association report into the General Practitioner workforce shows an alarming decline in GP numbers, says NZMA Chairman Dr Tricia Briscoe.

The report, An Analysis of the New Zealand General Practitioner Workforce, brings together information from existing sources and clearly demonstrates a shortage of GPs in New Zealand.

“The NZMA has long had serious concerns about the state of the medical workforce in New Zealand, and we have chosen to focus on the GP workforce for our first in-depth study. This report, which collates information from many sources, shows just how the GP workforce is declining in number. If the trend continues, the situation will get critical,” Dr Briscoe said.

The report shows the number of active GPs has decreased by 6.5% from 1997 to 2002 (and 8% over last two of those years). Using the narrower definition “GPs identifying general practice as their main type of work”, the decrease is 13.4% from 1998 to 2002.

Dr Briscoe said the report also identifies a number of key factors affecting the GP workforce, including the ageing GP population, the intentions of GPs, the effects of increased numbers of women in the workforce, the reliance on overseas-trained doctors, and the fact that GPs who are departing or intending to depart are not being replaced by incoming GPs.

“Now that we have shown the extent of the decrease, the next step will be to consider what action should be taken to put it right. If significant action is not taken, the GP situation will rapidly deteriorate to a major crisis, with grave results for patients.

“To this end, the NZMA is considering many options and will be developing recommendations to the Government about taking action to reverse the GP shortage. These recommendations will be released mid-year.”

The report also shows:
- Compared to Australia, we have fewer GPs per 100,000 population.
- The ageing population in New Zealand will require lower patient ratios.
- Most areas have experienced a decrease in GP numbers.
- Rural areas continue to experience shortages.
- The GP workforce is ageing.
- The proportion of women GPs is increasing. (Women GPs are more likely to work part-time).
- There are shortages of Maori and Pacific GPs.
- The GP workforce is reliant on overseas-trained doctors.
- GPs are experiencing negative work conditions.
- Few new medical graduates are choosing general practice as a career option.

The report is available from the NZMA website, at: (otherwise, contact the NZMA National Office).

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