Message of hope kicks off GP22

Matt Woodley

25/11/2022 5:02:51 PM

RACGP leaders opened the conference by addressing the many troubles facing general practice – but also provided delegates with a vision for the future.

GP22 welcome stand.
More than 1500 people have travelled to Melbourne to attend GP22 in-person. (Image: Adam Thomas)

The more than 1500 RACGP members attending GP22 were left in no uncertain terms about the scale of the problems facing general practice in the coming years.
Continued underinvestment, current and projected workforce shortages, and the erosion of their place in the healthcare system were at the top of the agenda.
However, attendees also received insights into the amount of behind-the-scenes work the college has been doing to reverse this burgeoning crisis, as well as a path towards a brighter, more sustainable future.
Following a Welcome to Country, and opening remarks from Chair of the GP22 Advisory Group Dr Anita Muñoz, outgoing President Adjunct Professor Karen Price spoke about the challenges of her two-year term and thanked members for their tireless and much needed efforts.
But she also warned about the need to redouble efforts to combat the coming headwinds.
‘We have endured another exhausting 12 months; however, you should all hold your heads high,’ she said.
‘You have to delivered millions of COVID vaccines and boosters, flu vaccines, cared for patients who delayed or avoided screenings and consults during the pandemic, [and] we’ve helped those with mental health [concerns] and will continue to do so.
‘We achieved all of this despite many of the nation’s leaders and media commentators not fully appreciating the immense challenges and the complexity that we face every day – nor do they understand the value of our work.
‘As professionals we must actively and rebelliously resist. We must declare that we are the experts in complexity and in general practice.’
Professor Price also discussed the advocacy work that has taken place during her term and urged those in attendance to continue supporting efforts to promote the work of general practice to politicians and the wider community.
‘Thanks to the continued advocacy by the RACGP, the political class are actually starting to understand,’ she said.
‘We need meaningful reform backed by real investment. And as I’m fond of saying … reform without reinvestment is just red tape.
‘We must draw more future GPs to the profession. We must keep the GPs we have. We must ensure high quality care is available to all patients in all corners of Australia. And we must secure the future of general practice care for years to come.
‘Your college will pick up the fight against the power of “paid-for political advocacy” because everyone deserves a world class system.
‘That is the mission ahead of us. And I’m confident that your new President, Dr Nicole Higgins, will advocate just as strongly as I have done.’
Professor Price’s address was immediately followed by Dr Higgins, who thanked her predecessor before beginning her own two-year term by vowing to continue the fight against those who would harm the health of the nation by denigrating general practice.
‘The next the next few years are going to be incredibly challenging,’ she said.
‘I’ve watched our profession become defunded and devalued, while at the same time watching others pay for influence and erode general practice while risking patient safety.
‘I’ve asked the RACGP for a stronger, more focused advocacy team to support us both nationally and at a state level.
‘This is what the members have asked for. And this is what’s going to happen.’

GP22-opening-article.jpgRACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins has vowed to serve members with fierceness, humility and integrity. (Image: Adam Thomas)
To help illustrate her points, Dr Higgins referenced her first-hand experience with the controversial Queensland pharmacy prescribing pilot and also spoke about how just one hospital on the Gold Coast has a budget equivalent to 25% of the funding allocated to all of general practice each year.
However, she also spoke about how this underinvestment, combined with the overall lack of understanding about what GPs actually do, provides a chance for improvement, if the messages can get through to the right people.
‘We’ve had enough but we also need to tell our story – that general practice is the cost-efficient engine house of the Australian healthcare system,’ she said.
‘Politicians have got very low health literacy, especially about general practice, and that is the opportunity for us.
‘We need to educate them. We need to tell our stories about general practice. I need you to ask your MPs into your practices … they need to see how we work and why you work.’
Dr Higgins went on discuss the collective power possessed by the college’s 40,000 members and their patients, and encouraged GPs to harness this influence for the benefit of the profession and the country.
‘COVID has taught us that general practice and GPs are nimble, we’re responsive and we can work from anywhere,’ she said.
‘The good news is this is a new era and a new opportunity.
Training is coming back to the college and this is something I’ve been deeply involved in. It heralds a new era for the RACGP and a new way of doing business. We must be bold and brave together going forward.
‘My promise to you, the members, is to serve you with fierceness with humility and with integrity.
‘It is such an exciting time in general practice. It’s going to be a lot of hard work in the next couple of years, I really ask you to come with me and let’s make general practice great.’
The opening speeches were followed by GP22’s first plenary, which discussed healthcare sustainability and how Denmark was able to close hospitals and cut healthcare costs – but improve outcomes – by investing in primary care.
Other sessions included in the first day’s program include presentations on the transition to profession-led training, research in general practice, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, voluntary assisted dying, and women’s health.
Many of these presentations, as well as those featuring on days two and three, will be available online for GP22 digital pass holders after the event.
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Dr Stephen   26/11/2022 12:51:46 PM

I hear a lot about how the RACGP are "advocating" for us and "educating politicians", but I'm still waiting for actual improvements in remuneration, GP registrar numbers, and paperwork burden. Next year the CPD burden is going to significantly worsen! How many more GPs are going to burn out, how many more practices are going to close, before something actually changes?

Dr Viviane Sarah Leventhal   28/11/2022 3:11:00 AM

Interesting Question that has caught my considering - I am offering the point of View from my experience that became my "Specific Interest" .
The Training in Spiritual Medicine become availablein to me in my Journey through General Practice . - Principles of the Essence / Core that govern Good Health .
This is outside the Physical Life Style Medicine & current available Mental Health. I was fortunate to have been born into a Culture where Core matters DID Matter & if things were NOT Right , one would clook @ the CORE to see why it DID NOT Work . This would be called the Spirit of the Matter .
There is a Area that has NOT YET been defined , nor Honored in Medicine & by becoming Trained in this Area - many of the Answers we are needing will appear .

Dr Vineet Jadhav   28/11/2022 9:13:36 AM

My faith in the RACGP was lost this year, after I lost my overseas trainee GP who had practiced for more than 4 years ,and battled on to survive the challenges of the Pandemic, only to be told at the start of the year that because of "policy changes", the Area of Need Pathway, would be closed and no special consideration would be provided for the years spent and she would have to relocate to remote rural to be eligible to sit the exams.
My attempts to communicate with college to explain the impact on a small regional practice and its supported population fell on deaf years.
The Pandemic was a good example of the lack of leadership and advocacy from the RACGP when Govt bodies and the health departments were increasing the burden on general practice.
It is irony when some years ago, when I had argued with my wife who is a Fellow of FRACP ,that, RACGP was fairer College, which was a full advocate, for its members.