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General practice ‘not winning’ as the medical workforce surges
A SIGNIFICANT rise in overall medical practitioner workforce numbers has failed to translate into a win for general practice, with the bulk of the increase being reflected in higher numbers of specialists and specialists in training, according to a new report.
The Medical Labour Force 2009 report, released last week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, revealed that despite an increase of almost 25% in overall primary-care practitioner numbers between 1999 and 2009, the rate of full-time equivalent (FTE) practitioners remained marginally lower than 1999 levels.
According to the report, primary-care practitioner numbers had risen from 20,616 in 1999 to 25,707 over the course of 10 years.
However, the report indicated a 60% increase in the number of specialists and specialists in training, with the overall total rising from 20,914 to 33,444 in the same period.
Tim Usherwood, professor of general practice at the University of Sydney, said the results were particularly disappointing for the profession given the strong international evidence that supported the need for a well resourced and staffed primary-care workforce.
“It is disappointing to see such an increase in specialist numbers [with] a lot of the increase in numbers going into non-GP specialist training,” Professor Usherwood told MO.
“There has also been a significant increase in specialist and specialist-in-training FTE rates as well...[while the FTE rate for GPs] has remained almost static over the last decade.”
The FTE rate for primary-care practitioners dropped from 114.9 per 100,000 population in 1999, to 112.1 in 2009, while the rate for specialists increased significantly from 104.4 to 120.9. The rate for specialists in training increased from 30.4 to 50.6 over the same period.
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