6 May 2010

GP training set for shake-up

1:32 pm on 6 May 2010

Training for family doctors is to be revamped to try to raise the status of GPs and attract more doctors into the area.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Health Workforce New Zealand and the Medical Council were to sign an agreement on Thursday that will launch a new approach to GP training.

The president of the college, Dr Harry Pert, says training and its support haven't been as good for graduates becoming family doctors as for other medical specialties.

He says that needs to change, to encourage more doctors to become GPs.

Health Workforce New Zealand chairman Des Gorman says the scheme will build on the strengths of the existing training programme to attract more graduates into general practice.

He says less than 10% of medical graduates opt to go into general practice, and GPs have seen their input decline in such areas as anaesthesia and obstetrics.

Some 600 students are participating in the current GP vocational training programme, which takes three years to complete.

However, an estimated 700 to 1000 medical graduates bypass the vocational training and go into GP practice as general registrants.

Health Workforce NZ says while many who don't do the vocational training are good, this group is over-represented in complaints. The Medical Council says most New Zealand doctors are competent to practise, but it wants tighter ongoing education for this group.

Radio New Zealand's health correspondent says up to 240 family doctors are needed each year but only 120 to 150 family doctors are trained annually.

Overseas-trained doctors form up to 70% of the workforce in rural areas and about 40% elsewhere.

The revised GP vocational training is due to be ready in January 2012.