The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcome the Medical Board of Australia’s (MBA) decision to progress to Stage Two of the application for the recognition of Rural Generalist Medicine as a specialist field within general practice.

The colleges are jointly advocating to have Rural Generalist Medicine formally recognised as a specialised field of practice within the medical specialty of general practice. This will provide a protected title and quality assure the unique training and skill set of thousands of rural doctors currently working across general practices, emergency departments, birthing units, retrieval services and other health services operating in rural and remote communities.

The application for Rural Generalist (RG) recognition was first submitted to the MBA in late 2019, with an additional report presented in July 2021 outlining further stakeholder consultation and support. The application is being coordinated by the Rural Generalist Recognition Taskforce, made up of representatives of the two general practice colleges and the National Rural Health Commissioner.

ACRRM President Dr Sarah Chalmers says that the colleges understand that attaining specialist recognition is a complicated process but clearing this first hurdle is a great milestone.

“We are confident that the case for recognition of Rural Generalist Medicine is growing stronger as there is broader understanding of the important contribution Rural Generalists continue to make to provide access to healthcare for people in rural and remote communities,” Dr Chalmers says.

“Formal recognition of Rural Generalist Medicine within our healthcare systems will remove current roadblocks to training, skills certification, recruitment, and employment for this critical workforce.

“The promise of a career with a recognised title, will provide a major spur to aspiring future rural doctors to undertake the additional years of multi-site training required to attain the RG skill set,” Dr Chalmers adds.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price adds: “Once again, the GP profession is leading the way in recognition for its doctors who play a central role in the health system. Rural Generalists must be recognised, valued and supported to fulfil their crucial roles – this will help not only benefit the communities they serve but also help attract more doctors to undertake this training.”

RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements says recognition of Rural Generalist Medicine will help in efforts to address rural GP shortages.

“It’s a positive step forward in our efforts to tackle the GP workforce shortage in rural and remote Australia, which is a top priority for the RACGP. Everyone deserves access to quality primary care, regardless of their postcode.”

Minister for Regional Health Dr David Gillespie says this is a fantastic step forward in the process of recognising rural generalism as a medical speciality.

“I congratulate ACRRM, RACGP, the National Rural Health Commissioner and many others for achieving this milestone,” Minister Gillespie continues.

“With them, the Australian Government is heavily invested in securing AMC recognition because our hardworking and dedicated RG doctors have long earned the status and reward that comes with it.

“RGs play a critical role in the delivery of rural health services. They are often a town’s GP and the doctor you see in your country emergency department.

“What makes rural generalism so special is the cross-over skills of being a rural GP with specialist skills to provide extra community support in healthcare, like obstetrics, anaesthetics or mental health services.

“We have committed over $60 million for a dedicated pathway to build our RG workforce through funding extra training places, expanding clinical rotations and the establishment of coordination units to support their training.

“The Commonwealth is working hard on securing the workforce and I am talking with state colleagues to make sure that country hospitals are serviced to the standards that enable RGs to operate at their best, high-skilled level for the benefit of country people,” Dr Gillespie says.

The Stage Two assessment will involve submission of a further application to the Australian Medical Council, and further stakeholder consultation. Alongside this process, the MBA will liaise with the Office of Best Practice Regulation to determine whether a Regulation Impact Statement is required.

The assessment will be able to observe the operation of the new or strengthened Rural Generalist Coordination Units in all states and territories, the Rural Generalist training pathway options within the national GP training framework and the growing broad awareness of Rural Generalist doctors and their work in rural and remote communities.

It is anticipated Stage Two consultation and assessment will be an 18-month process.