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GP President calls for action on GP trainee funding

The time for talking has passed. Now is the time for action. That was the key takeout message from The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners’ President Dr Tim Malloy, as he addressed more than 600 GPs attending today’s opening of the College’s annual conference.

“The College has been warning about a looming GP shortage for a long time. We have the evidence to support this claim – hard evidence from our annual workforce survey results, and soft evidence from talking to GPs about their workload demands,” says Dr Malloy.

“With support from the College members and Board, we have raised awareness of this issue with politicians and health sector decision makers. Since his appointment, the Minister of Health has confirmed that the Government would increase the number of GP trainees,” he says.

“But our concern now is that this ‘commitment’ has yet to turn into actual, tangible training places.”

For the second year in a row, the College has received more applications for its vocational training programme, than we have funded places available. Dr Malloy says he was heartened to hear the Minister of Health, Hon Dr David Clark, confirm that Health Workforce New Zealand will look at its budget with the goal of funding an additional 16 GP training places for the 2018/19 intake.

“However, this is just a short-term fix. What we really want is a commitment that will be able to fund 300 trainees each year, as previously promised,” says Dr Malloy.

“Without this we have a situation that is unfair on the applicants, unfair on everyone who is involved in the teaching of our future GPs, and unfair on patients - who will be the ones most affected by a lack of GPs in future,” he says.

“The Government, students and whanau all make a huge investment to produce medical graduates, and we need to ensure that investment is used wisely by increasing our frontline GP workforce and services to patients.

“What we need is a multi-year contract, with an agreed number of training places, so we can provide certainty to the medical students, new doctors, trainers and the general practices that would train them.”

Dr Malloy says the College will continue to advocate on behalf of its current and future workforce. He says that he, on behalf of members, is prepared to work with politicians and government officials, until the matter is resolved.

“Nearly half the workforce plans to retire within the next decade. If we don’t address this issue with urgency, we will find ourselves with a massive shortfall,” he says.

“Every trainee GP matters. It takes a minimum of 11 years to train a GP, so we can’t afford to be complacent. The time for talk has passed. Now is the time for action.”

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