Supporting GPs caring for deprived patients

2 minute read

Those who can’t afford complex care are the ones who need complex care the most.

GPs who work with patients experiencing deprivation and poverty are intimately acquainted with the inverse care law: the more healthcare a population needs, the less available it tends to be. 

Dr Liz Sturgiss, a GP and senior research fellow at Monash University, knows the phenomenon all too well in her clinical work. 

“To say that word ‘poverty’ and focus on poverty is really uncomfortable,” she said. 

“We are a wealthy country, but we’re noticing more and more that gap between people who are living in poverty and those who aren’t in our everyday work.  

“As a GP, it’s becoming apparent, that if you have money, the kind of care that I can organise for you is vastly different from my patients who are living on pensions and are unemployed. It gets really uncomfortable.” 

Dr Sturgiss has teamed up with fellow GP Dr Tim Senior to start a new RACGP specific interest group on deprivation and poverty, to provide peer-to-peer support for GPs caring for socioeconomically disadvantaged patients.  

In an opinion piece for TMR this week, Dr Senior wrote: “The health of our patients and the ability of our practices to respond to this is profoundly dependent on the circumstances in which people live, and these circumstances are profoundly dependent on people having sufficient money. 

“The GPs working in these areas have specific skills in patient engagement and empowerment, in managing multimorbidity and complexity and in advocating across multiple agencies for their patients. They exhibit the pragmatism that gets results among people the rest of the health system views as being ‘hard to reach’.” 

In this episode of the Tea Room Dr Senior and Dr Sturgiss talk about why they felt a SIG on deprivation and poverty was needed, what support GPs will be offered, and venture into the murky waters of “team care”. 

You can listen and subscribe to the show by searching for “The Tea Room Medical Republic” in your favourite podcast player.

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