Five minutes is all it takes to make a difference

23 August 2021

By Simone White, Senior Communications Advisor

An important part of the College’s work is to advocate on behalf of our 5,500 members – bringing to light the issues general practitioners and rural hospital doctors are facing in the workforce, and influencing change. 

Supporting our members occurs in many ways. Some are very visible, such as media interviews or writing opinion editorials, select committee presentation, and making submissions.

A large amount of our influence and advocacy work goes on behind the scenes. There is a lot of work that goes into building trust, credibility and relationships that allow the College to be an effective advocate.

In his presentation Surveys, advocacy, and media: A recipe for a GP revolution, at GP21, Medical Director Dr Bryan Betty(pictured right) focused on four College surveys that have been sent out to members over the past 18 months. He showed how the data from these surveys was used by the College, reported on in the media, and created change.

2020 Workforce Survey

  • 3,117 completed the survey (60 percent response rate)
  • Results prompted the creation of a separate burnout survey to gather more information
  • We spoke to politicians and the Ministry of Health to highlight the seriousness of the issues – and we now have a monthly meeting with Ministry officials to discuss what’s going on in our workforce'
  • There were 162 media mentions of the Workforce survey

Burnout survey

  • 1,495 completed the survey
  • Showed burnout levels of 31 percent (up from 22 percent in 2018)
  • The College secured an exclusive story on TVNZ with GPs sharing their experiences with burnout
  • GP shortages and burnout was discussed in a nine-page spread (and a front cover) of The Listener in July 2021 (and the survey received 153 media mentions overall)

COVID-19 vaccination survey

  • Sent out during the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown with 656 completing the survey
  • During this time there were reports that GPs did not want to be involved in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout – however these survey results told another story
  • 58 percent said their practice would be willing to be involved
  • The College kept repeating the message that GPs are the experts in vaccinations and should be consulted (early) about their part in the rollout.

Mental health insights survey

  • 326 completed the survey which aimed to identify how general practices were coping with mental health consultations, and how the current system is working
  • The results showed 63 percent did not feel supported by local secondary services in dealing with moderate to severe mental health needs, almost 70 percent said it was difficult or very difficult to refer someone who needs to be seen by a secondary mental health service, and 65 percent said secondary services have little to no understanding of the issues GP face in this space.
  • The College presented these results to the Ministry of Health who have taken this on board and will be presenting the findings to the DHBs
  • We now have regular monthly engagement with the Ministry who are listening to our concerns 

The College’s three main spokespeople; the President, Medical Director, and Chief Executive are, “here to speak up on the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of general practice,” said Dr Betty.

He stressed the importance of taking part in College surveys that are typically sent out in Tuesday's ePulse newsletter. 

“The surveys are short. They take about five minutes to fill out, but we’ve seen how the data can influence resourcing and policy decisions.

“Data from these surveys has given us a greater understanding of where the major pressure points are for GPs across the country.”

The College’s reputation for providing clear, evidence-based advice to media and government agencies has grown significantly over the past year.

Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, the College had over 1,400 mentions in the media – up from 573 mentions in the previous year.