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Happier GPs are prepared to work longer hours, Australia

Increasing job satisfaction for Australian general practitioners is key to meeting increasing demand for primary care for an ageing population in the future, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Using data from the third and fourth waves of the long-running Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey of Australian doctors in clinical practice, the researchers found that over 40% of GPs stated a desire to reduce their working hours, but that most (73.2%) failed to do so within a year.

Characteristics of doctors wanting to reduce their hours included being middle-aged, female, working more than 40 hours a week, and being on-call.

Doctors who were in excellent health, satisfied or very satisfied with work, and who were not partners in a practice were less likely to want to reduce their hours.

Predictors of successfully reducing work hours (by at least 5 hours per week) were being younger, female and working more than 40 hours per week.

Dr Richard Norman, Senior Research Fellow, and Professor Jane Hall of the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation at the University of Technology Sydney, wrote that although GP numbers have risen from 20 616 in 1999 to 25 707 in 2009, the hours worked by a typical GP had fallen from a mean of 45.6 per week to 42.2.

“In the context of an ageing population, the demand for GPs is likely to continue to rise over time”, they wrote.

“Our results show that improved GP job satisfaction is associated with less desire to reduce working hours.

“This implies that further investigation of policies that can improve GPs’ job satisfaction may well ensure improvements in the doctor supply.”

“Meeting the needs of the population for primary health care and supporting those providing this care represents an important balance that must be made, and an area of ongoing challenge and opportunity”, the authors wrote.


The desire and capability of Australian general practitioners to change their working hours, Richard Norman PhD, Jane P Hall A, PhD, Medical Journal of Australia, DOI: 10.5694/mja13.10776, published 21 April 2014.