What’s it like to be a GP in Australia?

Inside a GP Clinic in Mindarie, Perth

Inside a GP Clinic in Mindarie, Perth

What’s it like to work as a GP in Australia?

GP practice in Australia is very similar to the UK & Ireland in terms of clinical work. Practices are generally modern and have good nursing support. Some have physiotherapy, pathology, ultrasound, CT and / or ECG too. Usually the practices have 6 to 10 doctors on site. Typically, they are open 12 hours a day, for 5 /6 days per week and often Sundays too. They may ask you to work a rota to help them cover these hours but there are locations where you can work part time or just Monday to Friday. (Unfortunately, these options are unlikely in Melbourne or Sydney at the moment)

The practices can be situated as standalone premises or in shopping centres or next door to a pharmacy.

A lot of GP practices are owned by “corporates” – companies set up to run a number of practices either within a State or nationally. Generally well run and with a clear understanding of the needs of doctors coming from the UK & Ireland, they make a good place to start off a career in Australia. They’re not the only option though, as there are quite a few privately owned practices who are also looking for GPs.

The main difference between GPs in the UK & Ireland and Australia is in the way you get paid. For the typical jobs that we have, you’ll get a “percentage of billings”. GP practices bill patients or Medicare (their version of the NHS) for each consultation. This money is then split between the practice and you.  The percentage you get is important – called the percentage of billings but of at least equal and perhaps more importance is to know that you’ll be busy with a steady stream of patients.

You’ll be an independent practitioner and so self-employed. You’ll get paid gross and then, most likely with the help of  a local accountant, you’ll need to sort out your tax (after allowing for expenses such as MDU, travel costs, some home office costs etc  and pension).

Cricket Match at the Oval, Adelaide

Cricket Match at the Oval, Adelaide

Australia itself is still doing well. Despite the general downbeat feeling in Europe, Australia is still growing and a great place to be.

Many of the GP jobs we have are in these high growth areas – Perth & Western Australia and around Melbourne.  There are some jobs in the traditional destinations of Brisbane and Sydney as well but these tend to be in the suburbs. There are also jobs available in more rural and remotes areas. Here you’ll need to be independent and able to cope with emergencies as well as handle the standard GP fare.

All of the main cities and their suburbs are pretty cosmopolitan, though less so than what you might be used to if you live in one of the UK’s bigger cities. While overwhelmingly “British” in background, there are a lot of Asian influences in Australia, reflecting the cultures brought in by far eastern and Indian immigrants over the past few decades.  Small towns and rural communities are more conservative and have long-standing links with the UK and Ireland

The Australian way of life is relaxed. Perhaps a bit rough around the edges but more than made up for with an easy going friendship and resilience to the difficulties life might throw at them.

Physically, weather and distance are the overwhelming differences between us and Australia. Warmer than the UK, it’s rare for any of the main cities in Australia to have snow in the winter. And in summer, it can get hot and humid, particularly north of Brisbane Queensland. Distance is perhaps the overriding difference though. Not only to get there – it is still 18 hours flying (and you have to stop) between the UK and say, Perth (longer to Sydney) – but also within Australia. It’s not surprising that the longest straight stretch of railway is in Australia. What is surprising is that it goes for 297 miles  without a bend or curve.  That’s about the same distance as London to Carlisle

See here for guide to different parts of Australia

The service I received from both Paul in the UK and from Monique and Martina in Australia was excellent. Initially I mainly was in contact with Paul whilst I was getting organised with registration which he helped with. He was extremely patient in answering all my questions. When I first arrived in Newcastle I was really pleased that Martina came to meet me there whilst she was visiting New South Wales (despite being based in Melbourne) and took me to my practice to meet everyone. I found this particularly helpful as I moved out here on my own knowing no-one so I was grateful to meet a friendly face. I’ve been here 5 months now and its definitely been one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Dr S. G.