Two rural generalist trainees for every spot

4 minute read

After taking a nosedive in 2023, GP training numbers are bouncing back, and the rural pathway is more popular than expected.

ACRRM is expecting to end up with around 100 more registrars than it planned for, as the Rural Generalist Training Scheme (RGTS) grows in popularity.

With the recruitment process still under way, the college said its 150 allotted Australian GP Training (AGPT) places had been oversubscribed by 10%, while the 100 RGTS places were oversubscribed by 90%.

It’s a dramatic turnaround from last year, when ACRRM failed to fill half of its AGPT places.

Dr Dan Halliday, ACRRM president, said the increase in applicants since the transition to college-led training 12 months ago was a sign of confidence in the college’s fellowship program.

“We’ve had sustained interest in the RGTS program as a purely college-led program, and that’s been increasing over the last two or three years,” he told The Medical Republic.

He said the high level of interest was evidence that the rural generalist movement was not just a “nice marketing ploy” for general practice, an accusation that Dr Halliday said had come from various commentators in the medical field.

“The evidence is there that it does produce good quality candidates, that it does address the medical need on the ground and that it does improve and enhance retention of medical practitioners in rural and remote areas,” he said.

“I think the fact that we are looking at nearly doubling our RGTS candidates in the last 12 months [shows] that it’s succeeding, and that’s due to the hard efforts of a number of people across the sector.”

Over the next 12 months, Dr Halliday said ACRRM would be working with the government to increase its allotted training places to keep up with demand.

ACRRM is the sole provider of the RGTS, and it’s the second year in a row that the college has been oversubscribed for the program.

When the RGTS overfilled last year, the Department of Health and Aged Care gave ACRRM the go-ahead to take on more registrars and provided additional funding.

Dr Halliday said the college was still in discussions about funding for the oversubscribed places this year, but that DoHAC had been supportive so far.

Given the current rural workforce shortage, he was also confident that there would be enough training practices ready and willing to take on the surplus registrars.

ACCRM is also investigating remote supervision models.

It’s likely that interest in the RGTS will continue to grow, with rural generalist medicine on track to be formally recognised as a specialty within the next few years.

“I’ve been on record to say that I would love to see the process finalised by the end of this year, because that would tie in nicely to recruitment cycles for the following year,” Dr Halliday said.

“However, that’s not within my control.”

Both colleges provide the AGPT, which itself has a general pathway and a rural pathway. The AGPT rural pathway is different to the RGTS.

The RACGP managed to fill all of its 750 general AGPT places this year, but still had 118 places left in the rural pathway.

Overall, the larger college filled 92% of its 1377 allocated training places, an improvement over last year’s 86%.

General pathway training positions in Queensland were the most sought after, with the state’s general pathway oversubscribed by 22 places for a total of 266 registrars.

NSW and the ACT had the highest number of places filled in total, at 413, and Victoria came in second at 299.

Tasmania and the Northern Territory had the lowest number of RACGP registrars, at 30 and 21 respectively.

Combining numbers from the two colleges, around 1426 AGPT places were filled this year compared to 1248 in 2023.

The last time all 1500 places on the AGPT were filled was 2017.

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