But there are so many steps that reaching the public consultation stage means the process is not even halfway done.
Rural generalism is inching closer to becoming a fully-fledged specialist field, with public consultation – the last big hurdle standing between it and recognition – now open.
If it passes the consultation and goes on to be recognised by AHPRA as a subspecialty of general practice, ACRRM and the RACGP will be able to apply to have their rural generalist training programs recognised.
Only once those get approved can doctors with the relevant qualifications apply to have rural generalist medicine officially added to their record and start using the title of specialist rural generalist, which will become a protected title under law.
Getting recognised as a specialty is a long process.
It’s taken the RACGP and ACRRM working together for five years just to reach the public consultation phase: step nine of 19 total.
After stakeholder consultation closes on 12 December, the Australian Medical Council Review Panel assesses the feedback, prepares a report and lets the colleges comment on the report’s accuracy before handing it to the AMC Recognition of Medical Specialties Sub Committee for consideration.
If you thought that would be the end, you’d be wrong.
The subcommittee then advises the Specialist Education Accreditation Committee, which finalises the AMC’s advice for the Medical Board.
If everything goes well and the Board decides there’s a case for rural recognition, it gets passed along to the Health Minister, who ponders whether there has been sufficient consultation.
The last three steps involve the Medical Board publishing its advice to the Health Minister, the Health Minister approving the specialty and the AMC formally calling for colleges to submit their programs for accreditation.
Considering that establishing a specialist rural generalist training pathway was one of the key duties given to the National Rural Health Commissioner by the federal government, it seems unlikely that the specialty recognition will receive much pushback from the Health Minister’s end.
Whether the bid for recognition passes the majority of the remaining phases, then, depends largely on the success of the public consultation, given that the data from that will form the basis of the AMC’s report.
“We encourage rural and remote general practitioners and rural generalists to review the application and provide input and feedback via the public consultation,” ACRRM president Dr Dan Halliday said.
Building the rural generalist workforce, he said, will hopefully go some way to addressing the $6.55m health underspend in the bush.
The public consultation is being run by AHPRA and will be open until Tuesday, 12 December.