Farewell from GPRA President Dr Melanie Smith

A reflection on what has been achieved in 2017/18

As this is my last year as president of GPRA, I would like to take this time to express my gratitude and to reflect upon what has been achieved in 2017/18. This year past has shown that when we work together as a team, and utilise rigorous analysis and research, including the skills of our registrars and our other members, we can make practical changes that will enhance the lives of those making a commitment to general practice and a better health system

NTCER negotiations

The GPRA negotiation team, of which I was involved, participated in meetings with representatives of General Practice Supervisors Australia (GPSA) to negotiate the National Terms and Conditions for the Employment of Registrars (NTCER). A representative of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) provided an impartial chairperson for these meetings.

Prior to the commencement of the 2018 negotiations GPRA raised concerns with the negotiation process. Despite these concerns remaining unresolved, GPRA agreed to participate in the negotiations to raise the issues of registrars and seek to address areas of ambiguity in the NTCER document.

As the NTCER negotiation process requires mutual agreement in order to effect any change, and as there was no indication from GPSA that they could seriously consider any of the changes or improvements to the wording of the NTCER proposed by GPRA during the 2018 negotiations, the GPRA Board determined that there was no value in continuing with the current negotiations.

Next year will be a pivotal year as GPRA works with the Department of Health and with other general practice sector stakeholders, including the Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) and GPSA, to create a more modern and equitable approach to the employment of registrars in general practice settings. By approaching this, in a truly collegiate manner, we can ensure the interests of our members are protected and sustained in a rapidly changing training landscape.

AGPT Training Program

In January 2018 GPRA was invited to participate in a review of Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program policies. I represented GPRA at the negotiations and was supported by a research and analysis team consisting of GPRA staff and registrars. By working together, and presenting valid arguments and evidence, we achieved some key outcomes. We campaigned for and achieved these improvements in policy:

  1. Registrars who are on an Extension Awaiting Fellowship and wish to work below the College’s minimum Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) requirement are now able to do so as long as they negotiate and agree their preferred working hours with their training facility.
  2. Registrars can apply to their RTO for an Extension for Assessment Purposes if further time is required to complete their skills training term.
  3. There are certain instances where a registrar may undertake paid employment while on Category 1 Leave and this should be discussed and agreed with the registrar’s RTO.
  4. Registrars can take leave immediately following a period of a different category of leave.
  5. Category 2 Leave can be taken outside of Core Vocational Training. Registrars can sit College exams/assessments while on a period of leave, with RTO approval.
  6. For registrars who are placed on Category 2 Leave due to being unable to be matched to an appropriate Training Facility, this Category 2 Leave will not count towards their Category 2 Leave allowance or the training time cap.

Increasing Engagement

We’ve been able to realign and refocus our efforts in engaging with our members, the Federal Government and other key stakeholders in the general practice and health sector. We have been able to get out to different regions and meet our members at various functions and have broadened involvement of Registrar Liaison Officers (RLOs) in our Advisory Council by moving our meetings around Australia.

We have also met regularly with the Department of Health and provided briefings to members of Parliament. We have been able to keep general practice training and registrar issues front of mind in organisations like the AMA, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and Australian College for Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and have contributed to meaningful policy discussion around Rural Generalism, community mental health and aged care.

Acknowledgments

As outgoing President, I would like to thank the Board, the CEO, Dr Andrew Gosbell and the tight-knit team that he has developed in the GPRA office. This has been, at times, a very challenging period for GPRA, navigating a complex political landscape and managing change. The enthusiasm and hard work of our team have seen clear wins in how we serve our membership.

Our communications and member engagement have been re-invigorated and we are better able to focus on our mission. I am so proud of what GPRA has achieved so far and I wish the incoming President and the whole team all the best in continuing on the critical work of GPRA. I look forward to continued involvement with GPRA as Immediate Past President in 2018/19. Onwards and upwards!

Dr Melanie Smith
GPRA President

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The NTCER covers the terms and conditions of GP Registrars' employment.