WE MAY be in a lag right now, but GP numbers are expected to increase throughout the North Coast in the next few years, says Dr David Gregory.
As a general practitioner in Port Macquarie, chair of the GP training organisation for NSW North Coast and board member for Medicare Local, Dr Gregory has his finger on the pulse of what's happening health-wise in the region.
He said we would notice an influx of graduates over the next few years.
"What happened in 2003 was the government thought it would be smart to stop training GPs to try and save money," Dr Gregory said.
"Then they discovered that didn't work very well, and now we're playing catch-up.
"But the good news is, in 2004 there were 400 GPs enrolling a year, now there is more like 1200 a year."
He said that was predicted to go up to 1700 within a few years, meaning more graduates and more trained GPs.
"We're in a little bit of a lag at the moment, but in places like northern New South Wales, GP numbers have increased and are still increasing," Dr Gregory said.
He said it was thanks to the regionalisation of GP training.
"Before about 2002, GPs had to do three years extra training after leaving the hospital system to become a GP and this was done in capital cities," Dr Gregory said.
"But since then, we now do training all over the country."
He said about two-thirds of doctors stayed in the area they trained in, which meant more GPs in regional areas, instead of just an abundance of them in the major metropolitan areas.
"It is different in every area, but numbers are improving and the number of trained GPs is getting higher," Dr Gregory said.