Australia is one of the most popular destinations amongst expat medical professionals looking to escape from the NHS by taking their skills overseas.
The country offers a similar culture to the United Kingdom, but boasts a more relaxed lifestyle, less stressful working conditions, better levels of staffing and investment and, of course, year round sunshine.
General practitioners are amongst the most in demand roles in the country, and so if working as a GP in Australia is something that you’ve been considering then here’s 4 things to read before deciding for sure.
Areas of Work
As an incoming GP you are likely to be directed to work in areas where there are staff shortages. This is a system known as District of Workforce Shortage and you will only be granted a Medicare billing number if you are practising in one of these areas.
Medicare is Australia’s equivalent of the National Health Service and so, to work as a state GP in the country, you need a billing number.
After ten years working in Australia you’ll be allowed to move throughout it and practice where you wish, but you can be restricted up until that decade benchmark. This is not the case for everyone, occasionally opportunities can arise for recent arrivals in other areas where there isn’t a workforce shortage - but it is something to be aware of.
Don’t fear that DWS areas will see you living in a remote village in the middle of the Outback however. Many of these are in the suburbs of the state capitals, with most of the rest being in large towns slightly further away.
The Healthcare Structure
As with most countries there is a wide variety of public and private health centres. The public system is funded by the state along with a 2% ‘Medicare levy’ which is paid by all taxpayers. This amounts to a total of almost 9.5% of the country's GDP being spent on healthcare.
For the patient primary care is provided on a fee for service basis where it is funded by the individual, or more commonly, the government. Secondary care - when referred by a GP - is provided free of charge. As well as this medicare provides initiatives to improve general health in the country. This includes education in areas such as mental and lifestyle related health.
Worldwide the healthcare system in Australia is highly thought of, and the high life expectancy of 82.15 years (almost 2 years greater than the United Kingdom’s) is testament to its success.
The main attraction for NHS staff to Australia however goes on behind the scenes. As a GP you will be self employed but tied down to a number of practices in a certain area.
The infamous NHS bureaucracy and seemingly endless forms that require filling in will not be an issue ‘down under’, leaving you with plenty of time to do the part of the job that you love - treating patients.
To put it in the most simple terms working as a GP in Australia is very similar to doing so in the UK. You will usually work 9-5 Monday to Friday, with occasional weekend or evening appointments, and you’ll be working with modern equipment in a contemporary facility. The most notable differences are that there will be far less red-tape, far more freedom for yourself and far less form filling which you will need to carry out...and the weather will be better!
In your first year as a GP in Australia you can expect to receive gross earnings of around AU$240,000 (around £146,000) rising to around AU$450,000 (£275,000) during your time in the country.
Typically GPs will be on around 65% commission, and that’s what these rough figures are based on, however this will not be the case in all practices and regions. Some will offer lower commission rates with cash based bonuses or lump sums, whilst in areas where they are especially struggling to recruit practitioners the commission percentage can rise even further.
The Accreditation Process
In order to gain employment in Australia as a GP you require to be registered with the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP). This is a process which can take a great deal of time due to its complexity, however that’s where we are here to help.
The system will classify all practitioners as category 1 or category 2. Category 1 is for practitioners who do not need an examination or further training to prove their medical competence. For British trained individuals this means that if you have both your MRCGP and CCT certificate then you should find yourself in category 1. Doctors with these qualifications will all be individually assessed, but should pass easily into the category.
Other qualifications, such as those from countries outwith the West, are likely to see you fall into category 2. Don’t let this end your Australian dream however, it simply means that you will require additional training before being granted RACGP registration.
For further information on the process the Australian Medical Council has created an online guide:
Whilst the RACGP also provide a guide to what qualifications are likely to gain you entry to each category, along with a self-assessment form to fill out that will decide how eligible you are to work in the country.
In brief the accreditation process should go like this:
1.Organise all your personal documentation and qualifications
2.Register online to the Australian Medical Council for EICS/ECFMG endorsement of your MBBS and MRCGP qualifications
3.Forward notarised copies of MBBS and your GP qualification, along with the application forms you have filled in and the fee to the AMC
4.Start the RACGB process using their online portal after receiving confirmation from the AMC that the above paperwork has reached them
5.Upload the documents they request, alongside a confirmed job offer or job description and your certificates of good standing
6.The RACGP will then assess your application and (assuming that you meet the criteria) will award you Category 1 status and the ‘ad eundum gradum fellowship’
7.Assuming that, that is awarded you will then be given six months in which to accept the job
Australia is a wonderful country that is hugely popular with Western trained medical professionals considering a dream move overseas. The country has plenty to offer medics, from high salaries to a dream work/life balance.
With a shortage in the number of GPs in the country now would be the perfect time to make the move. To start your journey ‘down under’ today simply register on our website for job alerts.