Burnt-out GPs need help, peak body says

·2-min read

An "undervaluing" of general practice medicine has led to high burnout rates and a low take-up of new staff, the new head of the peak body for GPs says.

Dr Nicole Higgins has been named president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

A member of the college's Queensland faculty council, Dr Higgins will take over the role when current president Karen Price's two-year term ends in November.

Dr Higgins said general practitioners were in crisis due to a freeze on Medicare and increasing pressure on doctors.

"Practices are referred to as an efficient workforce of the healthcare system and we tend to just work in the background and no one notices until there's a problem," she told AAP.

She said COVID-19 had exacerbated issues present in the sector for years.

"We've been undervalued and not funded adequately for the last seven years, since the Medicare freeze," she said.

Dr Higgins, who owned a teaching practice in Mackay, in regional Queensland, has been involved in GP training for more than 20 years.

She said more needed to be done to improve take up rates of GPs in regional and rural areas and ensure more doctors worked in general roles, not specialised fields.

"Only 15 per cent of medical graduates are now entering GP training. When I started it was 50 per cent," she said.

"At a time when we're pushing out more graduates and graduates are going on to non-GP specialities, we need to make it more attractive."

Outgoing president Prof Price welcomed Dr Higgins' appointment.

"I am confident Dr Higgins will take the challenges head on and prosecute the many opportunities to advocate for GPs and the future of high-quality GP care in our country," she said

"We have come a long way in a short space of time, but there is still much to be done. The pandemic is not over, and at the same time, years of underfunding and neglect have put general practice in crisis."