Budget 2022 - GPs: always there to care but largely ignored  

19 May 2022

Today’s Budget put the bulk of health funding announced today on infrastructure and standing up Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority. The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners welcomes the investment for general practitioners in high need areas, and the investment for community health care, but is disappointed that the funding does not specifically address the workforce shortage. 

College President Dr Samantha Murton says, “Setting up these new entities is important but so is addressing the significant specialist general practitioner workforce issues.  

“Today is World Family Doctor Day, which has the tagline of “always there to care”, and we are in danger of not being there in the not-too-distant future if there continues to be so little focus on developing the general practitioner workforce.” 

The College welcomes the investment in developing the allied workforce in the community, but those jobs can’t replace vocationally trained general practitioners who deliver specialist diagnostician skills that others can’t.  

“As more GPs are nearing retirement age or thinking of leaving the profession early due to burnout, there will be no ability to provide more consultations and longer opening hours, let alone train the new generation of general practitioners who are coming through our training programme,” says Dr Murton. 

“There needs to be a solid investment in training more general practitioners and rural hospital doctors so we can continue to provide complex medical care in the community, or it is the patients who will miss out. 

In our GP Future Workforce Requirements report, the College highlighted how 

10 extra general practitioners per 100,000 people means about 30 people a year wouldn’t die from cancer, respiratory, and cardiovascular issues, and 

having more GPs would save the economy $139.6 million in health savings ($150m per year in savings minus $10.4 million to train more GPs) 

“GPs undertook 20,500,000 contacts in 2020 and that is projected to grow to 23,000,000 in 2030.  

“We need more specialist GPs to ensure all New Zealanders can get timely appointments at their local practice when they need it, no matter where they live,” says Dr Murton. 

“We welcome the fast-track to residency announcement for international GPs wanting to make Aotearoa their home, but there needs to also be a commitment to growing our own workforce.” 

Ensuring young doctors are getting exposure to general practice and rural hospital medicine and receiving a salary and benefits comparable with other specialities when they choose general practice is critical, as is supporting the specialist GPs who are supervising and teaching them,” says Dr Murton. 

The College is pleased to see a solid investment into mental health. GPs are seeing increased numbers of patients presenting with mental health concerns so having more accessible services is incredibly important, as is the additional funding for PHARMAC to fund more medicines for New Zealanders. 

The College also welcomes the funding for a diabetes prevention and treatment programme for targeted Pasifika communities in South Auckland.  

“Next year’s Budget needs to show a real commitment to the health of New Zealanders and address the issues of retaining specialist general practitioners in the workforce that we have been speaking out about for too many years,” says Dr Murton.