New $30.5m Pre-Fellowship Program pilot launches

Michelle Wisbey

3/04/2024 4:25:55 PM

The trial will help IMGs spend two years in a regional practice, with the aim of developing the skills needed to embark on a GP Fellowship pathway.

GP laughing with student.
Almost one third of GPs and registrars practicing in Australia obtained their medical degree overseas.

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) will be incentivised to experience general practice outside Australia’s major cities to prepare for Fellowship training, with a new pilot program helping cover the costs.
Applications are now open for the two-year Pre-Fellowship Program trial – a Commonwealth initiative aiming to plug the workforce gaps currently plaguing the regional healthcare system.
The $30.5 million commitment will support a minimum of 150 doctors each year to work in areas of shortage and allows practices to recruit doctors with overseas training, as well as those with hospital experience wanting to move into general practice.
The financial aid has been designed to enhance supervision, learning, and development for IMGs to gain the knowledge needed to join a Fellowship pathway program, either through the RACGP or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.
Eligible practices include those within Distribution Priority Areas (DPAs), including outer suburbs of major cities, as well as regional, rural, and remote areas.
Incentives are scaled in line with the rurality of the clinic, with the top tier providing $85,000 per doctor, per year.
A detailed set of Pre-Fellowship Program guidelines is now available, with in-depth information for potential participant doctors and practices.
Rural Education Committee Chair Dr John Buckley told newsGP it is key that practices are well-supported to rollout this often-demanding supervision.
‘It’s an opportunity for particular medical graduates who are new to the country, or even on temporary registration, to try Australian general practice, and I think the benefit of that is that they will be better at finding a place in one of the programs,’ he said.
‘I understand the workforce component is essential, but the more we can make it a good education experience, the better chance we have of longer-term workforce solutions rather than stopgap measures.
‘The pressure will come back to the practices … the person has to have, first of all, a good experience to keep them interested, and secondly, they have to have enough support to be safe – for themselves and their patients, and the practice.’
Practices will be prioritised on workforce need, with smaller rural practices to receive additional financial support, including more help for doctors requiring level 1 supervision through increased supervision payments.
RACGP Vice President and Rural Chair Associate Professor Michael Clements welcomed the announcement, telling newsGP it is important to introduce people into the general practice space in a supervised and supported way.
‘I certainly welcome the fact that they have tried to counteract the city draw by having tiered incentives, because we’ve been advocating for tiered incentives, for carrots rather than sticks, for a long time,’ he said.
‘This is a really good indicator of a government that does want to make a difference with this – I don’t think there’s a token effort there.
‘This is supposed to be leading into full Fellowship training, but not everybody is ready to make that step to go straightaway and the eligibility for this program is a lot easier, so I think this is a really good way of getting into it.’
The program comes as 29% of all registered GPs and registrars currently practicing in Australia obtained their medical degree from an overseas university.
Last year, the RACGP vowed to streamline the process for IMGs entering general practice in a bid to bolster numbers and address significant workforce maldistribution.
However, Associate Professor Clements said incentives are needed to support doctors once they enter their Fellowship training, such as entering the currently self-funded Fellowship Support Program (FSP).
‘For those that do get into Fellowship training, which is the natural way that they are progressing, all of a sudden, government subsidies stop,’ he said.
‘This Pre-Fellowship Program is very important and it’s a good taster for doctors to try out general practice as well, but then as soon as they select to join the real training programs, they’re not funded anymore.
‘It just makes common sense that the Government is supporting doctors, but we would support Fellowship Support Training funding so that they have the most subsidies to doctors working in the most remote areas.’
The initiative will replace the More Doctors for Rural Australia Program (MDRAP), which has now closed to new applicants.
Rural Workforce Agencies will deliver the pilot, conducting regular reviews of doctor progress and supporting these doctors move onto Fellowship training.
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Dr Anuruddha Sampath Ranaweera   6/04/2024 8:53:17 AM

Not enough time-just 2 days