GPs feel burdened by their workload and poorly compensated for their time, according to a survey of 750 Australian Doctor readers.
More than 40% of the respondents intend to reduce their working hours in the next 12 months. In many cases, this is coupled with a change from bulk billing to private billing so they can charge a fair fee for their time.
Q. What changes to your work as a GP are you planning to make over the next 12 months?
|Reducing my hours significantly||43.3%|
|Leaving general practice completely for another job||10.5%|
|Increase my hours significantly||0.8%|
The move towards reduced working hours reflects the findings of the recently released RACGP General Practice: Health of the Nation 2022 report, which shows that under 14% of doctors are choosing a career in general practice and that practice owners are struggling to source and retain GPs.
Outgoing RACGP President Dr Karen Price said general practice was financially unsustainable and pleaded with the government to increase the Medicare levy.
“The evidence is clear that general practice is in crisis, and it’s impacting the health and wellbeing of people in communities across Australia who are struggling to access and afford the care they need.
“We urgently need more GPs on the ground right now,” said Dr Price in a press release.
Participants in the AusDoc survey listed burnout and dissatisfaction with remuneration as their main reasons for making a change. Other issues included the risk of disciplinary action by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), the burden of continuing education (CPD) requirements and complex Medicare regulations.
In the AusDoc study, one respondent described their work pressure as “death by a thousand cuts”. Another said: “Work is too exhausting and risky for not enough money.”
Q. What’s the main reason behind your decision?
|A lack of remuneration||47.9%|
|I no longer enjoy medicine||17.2%|
Just over 50% of the survey respondents work in a metropolitan practice, with the others split across regional centres and rural or remote areas. Most respondents were in the 41-60 age group and just over half were men.
While not one of the original survey options, in the comments section many GPs called out the need to increase billing through various ways to make the job more viable.
A number of GPs said they would stop bulk billing and encourage their patients to lobby for affordable health care. Another intended to move away from a low socioeconomic area to one where they could increase their private billings.
On the issue of job pressure, a GP stated: “I have already significantly reduced my hours to stave off burnout. I plan to keep an eye out for any non-clinical opportunities which may augment my practice.”
Another said they intended to supplement their income by working in a hospital at least once a week to earn a wage instead of relying solely on their GP remuneration.
The comments are closely aligned with the findings of the RACGP report. Almost half of the GPs surveyed by the RACGP said they were finding general practice financially unsustainable, and three-quarters have experienced feelings of burnout in the past year.
The RACGP report highlights the following issues:
- Doctor burnout
- Unsustainable workload
- Declining interest in the profession as a preferred career path
- Increasing numbers of GPs intending to retire or cease practising over the next 10 years
“Being a GP is such a rewarding career. However, more needs to be done to make sure this profession is adequately supported and valued,” said Dr Price.
“If general practice were a patient, I would say that it had several serious underlying health conditions that, if not properly addressed, will lead to grim outcomes.”
AusDoc Study: ‘Will you quit general practice?’ (October 2022) n=755
RACGP ‘General Practice: Health of the Nation 2022’