New GP qualification to improve support for rural Australian patients

Australia’s peak body for rural general practice, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), has committed to a new Rural Generalist Fellowship for trainee doctors to play a key role in ensuring Australians living in rural and regional communities always have access to a highly trained GP who understands their particular needs and circumstances.

Vice President of the RACGP and Chair of RACGP Rural, Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda, said the introduction of a Rural Generalist Fellowship with the RACGP from 2020 will encourage GPs to practice in the areas of Australia that have been struggling to attract and retain appropriately trained GPs.

“Working in regional, rural, remote and very remote Australia has unique challenges, therefore specific rural training is essential to developing the range of services a rural GP is required to deliver to their community,” A/Prof Shenouda said.

“Often rural GPs are the only medical practitioners available to support their community, so we must be thoroughly trained in the full scope of medicine that our patients will require, such as emergency medicine, mental health, obstetrics, palliative care, or pediatrics.”

Dr Shenouda said the new RACGP Fellowship in Rural Generalism will offer a well-supported pathway for junior doctors, with the flexibility that would also allow entry and exit from their training at various stages of their career.

“Many regional and rural areas of Australia are in desperate need of GPs. These towns are struggling to attract junior doctors, registrars and GPs from the city to their community.

“The Rural Generalist Fellowship with the RACGP will also encourage GPs who want to acquire new skills or to have their existing skills recognised by the RACGP and better address the shifting needs of rural and remote communities, such as the ever-evolving needs or mental health and palliative care.

“The specific and appropriate training a Rural Generalist Fellowship with the RACGP will provide registrars and GPs will empower them to care for their rural communities.

“The evidence is clear that doctors who train and upskill in a rural or remote setting tend to remain in a rural or remote setting caring for their patients.”

Dr Shenouda said the Rural Generalist Fellowship is a vital step forward by the RACGP and was a decision made after consultation with its rural members and GP training organisations.

“The RACGP will continue to do everything possible to ensure doctors in training are supported to acquire the medical skills necessary to meet the needs of rural and remote Australian patients.

“I would like to acknowledge the support of the National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley and the President of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) A/Prof Ewen McPhee, as well as all members of the Rural Generalist Task Force in developing the National Rural Generalist Pathway, which is now in its implementation phase with strategies to retain doctors working in the bush, adequate remuneration and recognition are essential elements of their recommendations.”

The RACGP continues to take every opportunity to lobby both federal and state governments to adequately fund and support this important work.

The RACGP will continue to work in collaboration with ACRRM and other specialist medical colleges to ensure future rural doctors are well supported and adequately skilled to address the health needs of Australia’s rural and remote communities.

The RACGP Fellowship in Rural Generalism will be available for GP Registrars from next year. Transition processes will be developed for experienced GPs and those who already hold a Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice or experienced rural GPs who hold Fellowship with the RACGP.

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