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Calls for incentives to attract GPs as retirement crunch looms

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Almost a third of GPs plan to retire in the next five years, prompting a call from their professional body to boost doctor numbers in the community.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has released its seventh annual Health of the Nation report, which focuses on the attraction and retention of the GP workforce.

It found GPs are seeing more patients than ever and less than 1 per cent of people are unable to see a GP when they need to.

At the same time, the average time GPs spend with patients has increased.

However, the workforce needs to be boosted as fewer medical students choose GP training and more GPs look to reduce their hours or leave the profession.

“Almost three in 10 GPs signalled their intention to retire in the next five years,” the report released on Wednesday said.

The sustainability of general practices also needed attention, with four out of five practice owners concerned about the viability of their practice.

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“A strong GP workforce is essential for the health of our nation but it is under pressure,” RACGP president Nicole Higgins said in a statement.

“Sourcing and retaining GPs remains the issue most practice owners rank as their biggest challenge.”

The college is calling for incentive payments in the first six months of community GP training, study leave and paid parental leave for GPs in training.

“It’s unfathomable that in today’s age GPs in training don’t get paid parental leave and more so when you consider more women are becoming GPs each year than men,” Dr Higgins said.

The report said almost nine in 10 Australians visit a GP each year. On average, patients received 7.9 episodes of care from their GP throughout the year.

It also found the cost of care is increasing, and the proportion of GPs who bulk bill most of their patients decreased significantly in the past year.

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