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Regulations burden family GP
Steve Wilson fears for old-style practices. Picture: Bohdan Warchomij

Over-regulation has been blamed for threatening the survival of the family general practice in favour of corporate clinics.

Young doctors were dissuaded from setting up surgeries and established GPs were becoming disheartened because of the time and money needed to keep up with the regulations around running a practice, Australian Medical Association WA Council of General Practice chairman and Bassendean GP Steve Wilson said.

The regulations run from organising fire drills to the need for patients to sign consent forms for minor procedures. Dr Wilson said patient outcomes had suffered as demands on doctors' time grew.

In this month's edition of the AMA WA's magazine Medicus, Dr Wilson said the pressure on doctors and family physicians was "the greatest in living memory".

"From 'within' we have Dr Google, patient demands and expectations, financial and time pressures, an overwhelming burden of chronic diseases and the exponentially growing mass of information and knowledge a practitioner is meant to keep across - meaning our own internal pressures are huge," he wrote.

"Likewise, external pressures are growing like… Medicare audits, claiming rules, Practice Incentive Programs as a constantly moving feast of requirements and rules… best practice guidelines, accreditation, credentialing, risk management training, documentation and paperwork, compliance, quality and safety in health, industrial relations, boundary issues, social media, codes of conduct, mandatory reporting, training and teaching and the time, stress and costs of running a practice."

Dr Wilson fears the amount of regulation could lead to more doctors joining corporate practices instead of "family practices", where a doctor can develop a relationship with a patient over the years.

"We need to be careful we don't snuff out the intangible magic and joy of what family medicine is about by making it so regulated that doctors become totally burdened down by it," he said.

"I don't believe patients want these great big polyclinics where they just go in and go out.

"The registrars whom I have taught over the last three to four years are just gobsmacked because they've come out of hospital practice and they come out to general practice and see all of the paperwork and red tape."