RACGP moves to become political voice of GPs
The RACGP's controversial TV campaign is part of a wider strategy to replace the AMA as the political voice of general practice, Australian Doctor has been told.
‘The good GP' advertisements have run on prime-time TV — including during MasterChef and the recent State of Origin game — and are believed to have cost the college in excess of $500,000.
The ads have received a mixed reaction from college members, some of whom accuse the RACGP of squandering membership fees on a campaign that is simply promoting the college.
Take our poll: How do you rate the RACGP's TV campaign
College insiders say the advertisements are an attempt to "raise the college profile, not only with the public but also the politicians and the policymakers".
"It is about the college being the group that governments negotiate with," a senior college source said.
"There are over 27,000 GPs with the college. The AMA has failed to represent the interests of GPs. How many GP are members of the AMA? [The college] wants to be the voice of general practice."
Last week, thousands of desktop plaques with the RACGP logo were mailed to practices as part of the awareness initiative.
But Melbourne GPs Dr Jane Collins and Dr Lora Gurney, practice principals of Clifton Hill Medical Group, are sending the plaque back in protest against the campaign.
"It's of an unprecedented scale for the college to spend this kind of money on television advertisements," Dr Collins said. "And what does the plaque mean? What am I supposed to do with it?"
However, Dr Bryan Connor, from Flinders Medical Centre in Cloncurry, Queensland, hit back at detractors.
"I despair that there is so much cynicism out there that GPs join the rest of whingeing Australia and find fault with a campaign that does highlight what a good GP really is," he wrote on the Australian Doctor website.
"[There is] constant harping about nobody appreciating what we do, and yet immediately knocking a sincere attempt to influence patients — and especially politicians — explains why we are hopelessly divided and cop a rebate freeze while the Pharmacy Guild is showered in taxpayers' cash."
RACGP President Dr Frank Jones (pictured) said the campaign was the result of internal polling showing GPs' desire for the college to advocate on their behalf.
However he has refused to reveal the cost of the TV campaign, which will run for the next 12 months and dismissed suggestions the advertisements were a missed opportunity to fight the continuing MBS freeze.
"This isn't a political campaign," Dr Jones said.
"Let me assure everyone this campaign is an ongoing one, and will feature and portray more diverse stories."
Dr Brian Morton, chair of the AMA council of general practice, hit out at the college saying it had been "far from being a great advocate" for GPs during the recent battles with the Federal Government.
"When it comes to advocacy issues, first point of call on any GP matter, whether it be the media or the government, is the AMA," he said.
"When reversing cuts the GP funding from last year's budget, the Prime Minister publicly acknowledged the impact of the AMA's advocacy."
Asked to reveal the number of GP members the AMA has, Dr Morton refused.
"The AMA speaks for all GPs whether members or not and government has never asked us to produce a membership list," he claimed.