Possible Changes to where GPs can work in Australia

The Department of Health has this week announced it’s proposal of how it intends to reduce the number of overseas trained GPs known as the Visas for GPs initiative. This is driven by statistics which indicate that by 2030 there will be an oversupply of 7000 medical practitioners.

The initiative aims to reduce the reliance on overseas trained doctors by reducing the number of visa approvals by around 200 per year. The initiative has been badged as a way to redistribute the number of overseas doctors working in and around major cities into regional, rural and remote areas where there is a higher need for doctors and where practices more often struggle to fill vacancies.

The fact sheet recently released explains that to be able to sponsor a GP, the practice must obtain certification from a Rural Workforce Agency stating that there is a genuine need to fill a healthcare position at a given location. The proposals have been scheduled to begin on the 11th March this year however this is subject to the necessary approvals. This has however not been agreed by the Department of Immigration so it is highly unlikely this deadline will be met.

What next?

At this stage, we must stress that this is only at proposal stage and has not been approved by the Department of Immigration.

The proposed new requirement for employers coming into effect on the 11th March, we think to be highly unlikely. This has not been given approval by the Department of Health and we don’t suspect this will happen prior to next week. We are keeping abreast of this and will update as soon as we have any further news.

It is also yet to be seen how any Health Workforce Certification would work in practice and the fact this proposes that all such administration be directed through the agency based in Tasmania seems to add yet another level of red tape to an already complicated process.

Many of our city based practices find it difficult to recruit locally trained GPs and heavily rely on overseas trained doctors to fill their vacancies. This may leave many of our practices in metropolitan areas struggling to provide the care needed for their patients.

It does seem likely however that under the new Stronger Rural Health Strategy there will be a move in the near future to address the regional shortages of GPs. As a UK trained GP, it may mean that it will become harder to work close to one of the State Capitals.

If you are planning a move to Australia in the near future, we would advise getting in touch sooner rather than later to discuss your own circumstances. We currently have no shortage of practices looking for overseas trained GPs.

We are staying up to date with any developments with this proposal and will update you as soon as we have any further news. For more information please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team to discuss further.