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Medical Health Aged Care

“GPs are the conductors of Australia’s health system”: RACGP President Nicole Higgins’ vision for general practice care in 2023

Royal Australian College of GPs 3 mins read

Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) President Dr Nicole Higgins has called for greater support for GPs and practice teams so that no patients are left behind.

It comes following Dr Higgins addressing the 2023 Primary Care Conference in Canberra where she outlined why GPs are the cost efficient engine room of the nation’s health system.

The RACGP President said that GPs and practice teams must not be taken for granted.

“My message at the conference was straightforward – we must value and sufficiently fund general practice care. The health and happiness of our communities depend on it,” she said.

“At the conference, I likened our role to a conductor. In an orchestra we have the strings, woodwind, percussion, and the brass instruments. Unseen in the pit, you have the conductor bringing the sounds together. The conductor doesn’t have to know how to play the violin or the flute, but they must know how they will sound together. They need to ensure that the notes are played at the right time, in the right place by the right musician and instrument. GPs are the conductors of Australia’s health system; we hold it all together and ensure that no patients fall between the cracks.

“GPs keep people out of hospital and save taxpayers money. It costs Medicare just under $40 for a patient to see their GP for an ear ache. If the same person presents to an emergency department, it will cost at least $600 for an episode of care for the same problem.  

To perform this function properly, we need greater support. This year’s federal Budget, which contained measures such as a tripling of bulk-billing incentives for certain patient groups and a new Medicare item for hour-plus consults, was a positive step forward. However, we must not stop there, greater investment in general practice care is required because GPs and practice teams are needed by their communities more than ever before.

“We have been undervalued, underfunded, and misunderstood for too long. All the evidence shows that having a regular GP is better than any wonder drug or treatment. Australians live longer and healthier lives if they have strong access to general practice care.” 

“We are the one constant in a person’s journey through the healthcare system and we can’t be replaced. GPs build relationships, we know our patients and their families and loved ones. We undertake over 10-years training where we learn how to safely diagnose and treat patients from all walks of life. The solution to addressing problems impacting our health system lies in securing the future of general practice care so that all patients can get the care they need when they need it.

Too often I hear that someone else can do what we do as a GP. Too often I hear that there are not enough of us, so we will get someone else to do your job. This is the message that is being sent to the new generation of young doctors, and it must stop.”

Dr Higgins encouraged future doctors to give general practice a try.

“I was once a small town country girl attending a public school who had big dreams of becoming a doctor,” she said.

“I was the first person on either side of my family to go to university, but I knew that being a GP was what I wanted to do. Today, I can proudly say that general practice is an incredibly rewarding career. GPs everywhere are valued by their communities, and we are trusted and relied on in times of crisis. No two days are the same, the work is varied and immensely gratifying.

“The challenge for me as RACGP President is to help more future doctors see that. But you can’t be what you can’t see, we need our medical students to be exposed to general practice at every step of the way. More than that, general practice care must be valued so that it once again becomes the career of choice for our young doctors. This is the mission ahead of me, and I intend to see it through.”


RACGP spokespeople are available for interview.

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About the RACGP

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.

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Contact details:

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Media Adviser

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