Mind the gap

Australia will be down more than 9,000 GPs over the next 10 years, a new report finds – and the Guild says pharmacists must step up to fill the gap

Deloitte’s new report, General Practitioner Workforce Report 2019, has forecast a shortfall of 9,298 GPs over the next ten years.

The Pharmacy Guild says that this highlights the need for pharmacists to take a greater role in Australia’s healthcare.

The report says that a “significant undersupply” of GPs will be evident by 2030 – and that there will also be a 37.5% increase in the demand for their services between 2019 and 2030 (139.8 million increasing to 192.1 million).

By 2030, there is projected to be a shortfall of 9,298 full-time GPs or 24.7% of the GP workforce, the Deloitte research found.

The deficiency of GPs is predicted to be most extreme in urban areas with a shortfall of 7,535 full-time GPs or 31.7% by 2030.

The report found that a family of four living in cities will have eight fewer GP visits in 2030, as a result of the GP shortage, and people living in regional areas will, on average, have about 20 fewer minutes with their GP per year – equivalent to a standard consultation lost every year. 

“Deloitte predicts there will be a shortage of more than 9,000 GPs in the next ten years,” said George Tambassis, National President of the Pharmacy Guild.

“Empowering pharmacists to take on a greater role in the healthcare system by doing things like giving more vaccinations, issuing repeat prescriptions for things like blood pressure and treating common ailments like asthma and migraine would relieve some of the pressure on already overworked GPs,” he said.

Victoria is expected to have the most severe shortage with a shortfall of almost 3,900 doctors, Queensland falls in the middle of the pack with a shortfall of 1,507 GPs, and only the Northern Territory is expected to have more GPs in 2030 than it does now.

“We’ve been saying for some time Australians are waiting longer and paying more to see a GP. Our health system just isn’t adapting as effectively as possible to our aging and growing population,” Mr Tambassis said.

“Deloitte’s report underlines why we need to make better use of pharmacists to help relieve some of the stresses and strains on our health system just by using our training to the full.”

In a statement the Guild noted that international jurisdictions such as the UK and Canada currently use pharmacists to treat common ailments like asthma or migraines, issue repeat prescriptions for people taking things like blood pressure medication and administering more vaccines.

It says that doing the same in Australia would improve accessibility and affordability for Australian families.

“In countries such as the UK and Canada, pharmacists are playing a greater role in their healthcare systems, which has reduced strain on overworked GPs and overcrowded EDs, made access easier and more affordable, while improving health outcomes,” Mr Tambassis said.

“Pharmacists are already the most visited health professionals, helping Australians on more than 450 million occasions last year so it makes sense to better use them.

“With Deloitte forecasting such a severe GP shortage, it highlights the need to better use resources already in our health system to improve affordability and accessibility for all Australians.”

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1 Comment

  1. Kevin Hayward

    If Australian pharmacists are to emulate the role played by primary care pharmacists in the UK and Canada, we need to identify and agree which of these roles they are to play in the Australian primary care team. We need to start equipping them with the appropriate skills and competencies to fulfil these roles. It will take a considerable time to develop an upskilled workforce capable of filling the gap.

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