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Stricter rules will deter GPs from working in Australia, say recruitment agencies

Major changes affecting overseas doctors, which could see UK GPs paying over £10,000 to practise in Australia, will stop UK GPs from considering emigrating, medical recruitment agencies have said.

From September, UK GPs applying for an RACGP fellowship will be required to complete all fellowship exams, be supervised and complete 'satisfactory' workplace-based assessments, the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has said.

It follows a change announced in March, whereby the Australian Government required overseas-trained GPs to have a Health Workforce Certificate for the location they wanted to work in to ensure there was a 'genuine need' to fill a primary care position. It comes as Australia faces a potential oversupply of around 7,000 medical practitioners by 2030, according to the Australian Government. 

Medical recruitment agencies said both restrictions will have a detrimental impact on the number of UK GPs wishing to work in Australia, with one warning they could pay 'up to $20,000' AUS (around £11,215) as part of the application process. 

However, the RACGP said: 'The costings of the new pathway have not yet been released, however they are expected to be broadly similar to the cost of the current specialist recognition programme'. 

Under current rules, most UK GPs who want to work in Australia are granted up-front 'fellowship ad eudum gradum' - a degree of equivalence - by the RACGP, meaning they do not need to pass exams.

From September, applicants whose qualifications are substantially comparable to Australian qualifications will pay up to $4,625 AUS (£2,594), and those with only partially comparable qualifications and who have to take exams pay up to $13,865 AUS (£7,776). 

The new practice experience program will replace the existing specialist recognition programme from 1 September, and will mean UK GPs will have to work in Australia first to prove their standards match Australian-trained specialists. 

RACGP censor-in-chief Dr Kaye Atkinson said: 'Currently, all specialist international medical graduates (SIMGs), which includes UK-trained GPs, have their skills, training - including assessment methodology - experience and recent general experience practice compared to that of an Australian-trained GP.

'The majority of UK-trained GPs with recent experience in general practice have been found substantially comparable. Substantially comparable international medical graduates are not required to undertake the RACGP fellowship examinations before the fellowship of the RACGP is awarded.'

She added: 'To comply with changes required by the Australian Government, from 1 September there will be changes to the requirements for international GPs seeking RACGP Fellowship and to the support educational support services available to them.

'As part of the increased support, substantially comparable GPs arriving in Australia will take part in a six-month program designed to assist the SIMG to meet Australian independent general practitioner status at RACGP fellowship standard. Throughout the six months, GPs will participate in education activities as they transition to Australian general practice and become accustomed to cultural and clinical approaches specific to the Australian environment.'

Guy Hazel, managing director of medical recruitment company Austmedics, said the changes will 'stop GPs from considering Australia' as a place to work. 

He said: 'As of March 2019, overseas trained GPs, who require an employer sponsored visa, must obtain a Workforce Certificate for the location they wish to work in. The implication for UK GPs is the only approved areas are likely to be much more rural than previously was the case. In most instances these approved areas will be a minimum of two hours from the capital cities. 

'After the 31 August 2019 [GPs] will have to complete all the RACGP fellowship exams, be supervised and complete work-based assessments. The overall cost will be up to $20,000 [around £11,149].

'Clearly these changes effectively stop UK GPs from considering Australia as a escape from the NHS unless they are really determined.'

Echoing his comments, Paul Brooks, who runs UK-based international medical recruitment agency EU Health Staff Ltd, said: 'This new program is much more restrictive - overseas trained GPs, ie UK and Irish GPs, will need to work under supervision for 12 months and in a rural area (Modified Monash Model 2 or greater). The rural area side of things is quite restrictive as it means GPs are likely to be at least one hour - more likely two to four hours - from one of the major cities.

'There are, however, quite a few smaller cities / towns in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland which qualify, and we do have vacancies in these areas.'

The Australian Government said it hoped the initiative launched in March would reduce the number of doctors by around 200 per year, over a period of four years. 

It follows moves by the UK Government to increase the number of Australian GPs coming to work in the UK. Earlier this year, NHS England launched a campaign to promote working in the NHS which hoped to lure Australian GPs to the UK. The campaign highlighted England's cultural 'treasures' such as premier league football clubs and Shakespeare as incentives. 

Last year, a new 'streamlined' registration process was also launched for Australian GPs to certify their eligibility to work in the UK

Are you looking for a new GP job? Search through 100s of vacancies on Pulse GP Jobs, our job site designed to help GPs find their next career move.

Readers' comments (12)

  • So, basically, the RACGP no longer has any trust in the value of the MRCGP (UK), and does not respect the RCGP (UK).
    So, should we????

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  • Up Comes the drawbridge!Have no respect for the RCGP role in the current debacle.

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  • Its not they dont respect RCGP... they just have enough doctors of their own now.... its a distribution problem for them.... getting them out of the cities.... but even in Australia the graduates dont want to be GPs anymore as they see the disparity between GPs and specialists pay and remuneration......

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  • So basically the RACGP has stopped recognizing the RCGP? Not surprised. Today a patient told me he is fed up of doctors asking him what he thinks he has. He said:"You are the doctor. Just tell me!" No £7k is not going to stop people going as the pay and working conditions are much better. The pound is in free fall too.

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  • MRCGP (UK) does not have all the remote stuff that RACGP and ACRRM has, the latter even more challenging and good. GPs in Australia do mote stuff, especially when remote, and all doctor training assumes you will be on your own, remote and flying doctors will not get to you because of weather for 48 hours. GPs do skin cancers, minor surgery, setting bones and more. General Practice in OZ is still General Practice, which a much wider remit. Most UK GPs seem terrified to do anything, not even suture a laceration, or joint injection. Do not panic. you can work and get there while working towards the exam. Supervision is pretty hands off, its not like being a trainee again. I suggest ACRRM exam, as a more remote orientated course. So at the start while working you cannot claim the higher "VR" fees until you have one of those exams. There are still plenty of interesting places to go. My inbox is full of pleading Oz agencies asking me back and claiming they can fix the visa.

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  • The 'remote stuff' is basically ATLS/ALS/ APLS / PHTLS- which you can do in the UK. the REST course I have done with ACRRM (Its similar to BASICs)- and so having ALL of them under my belt I would say they are pretty much comparable but the UK courses are cheaper. You are right, you do get to do a lot more in Rural practice and it is a lot more fun. I think any GP who has an interest in Prehospital care / emergency department would not struggle over there, its the younger trainees who haven't had this exposure who might struggle..... the Diploma in dermatology also helps... buy a scope and do the Cardiff course - both diploma and course in dermatoscopy....

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  • 11 grand is no deterrent. Less than a years tax on notional pension growth!

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  • Thanks Gerrald Bulger. Clinicians can actually practice medicine in Australia but over here, we have to watch our backs and deal with over the top regulations,GMC,CCG,PCN,CQC,GDPR, Gross Negligence Manslaughter when it gets busy and ask patients what they think they have and get blasted for it.

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  • Hahahaha, still won’t solve the GP problem in the UK. Lots of GPs tired of the BS will simply meet the criteria required of them and move. Only this time, they will be ready to bill accordingly for their services. I advise all who wish to move to a country that allows you to have peace of mind to take up a part time business management course as well

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  • Cobblers

    No major hurdle for a determined GP. And it's just Australia. There's the rest of the english speaking world out there just waiting.

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