We're specialists and there’s no quick fix for GP shortage 

18 February 2020

“We’re specialists” and there’s no quick fix for GP shortage 

There aren’t any quick fixes to the GP shortages hurting New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities because for successive years the role of GP as highly skilled specialist hasn’t been championed, despite the best efforts of the College. 

That’s the opinion of Dr Samantha Murton, President of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners who says the College has been signalling the looming GP shortage for years.

“GPs are highly skilled in complex health conditions, managing uncertainty and providing continuity, procedural skills, and extended services in the community yet the numbers coming into the field have been allowed to wind down for years, she says.

“As a result, GPs are struggling to recruit doctors into their practices.“

174 doctors are beginning their GP specialisation this year but only seven of those are currently in Northland.

Doctor Bryan Betty is the Medical Director for The Royal New Zealand College of GPs and says, “GPs are the first port of call for New Zealanders needing medical help; they’re the front line for keeping communities healthy and without more highly-trained GPs then we’re risking worsening health problems across rural areas. 

“Every New Zealander has a right to their own GP regardless of where they live and the opportunity to attain their full health potential; with shortages that’s just not being achieved,” he says.

Dr Murton says, “the work that GPs do as community-based doctors is the heart of medicine and general practices are the heart of their community. Quite simply, many of us feel that our ‘heart’ is failing, and no one is listening.”

“We need many more doctors to choose general practice as their specialisation now, not just because of the current issues with shortage, but so that GPs can work in a healthy way; they can meet the needs of their patients, provide a wide range of skills as a community doctor, and feel they are valued.“ 

The College will continue to work with the Ministry of Health, District Health Boards, and Primary Health Organisations to support our current workforce and recruit and train many more doctors to become GPs.

The College has just opened applications for the 2020-21 GP training programme and these are open until 5 April at http://www.gpep.org.nz

The 12-year path to becoming a GP

  • Becoming a GP is a specialist career that includes:
  • SIX years as a medical student
  • TWO years (at least) postgraduate medical experience 
  • THREE year general practice education programme run by The Royal New Zealand College of GPs
  • Fellowship assessment
  • Continued professional development and vocational training to annually renew a practicing certificate