The Desire and Capability of Australian General Practitioners to Change Their Working Hours
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Objective: To explore factors associated with general practitioners’ desire to work less and their success in making that change. Design, participants and setting: Waves 3 and 4 (conducted in 2010 and 2011) of a national longitudinal survey of Australian doctors in clinical practice (Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life). Of the broader group of medical practitioners in the survey, there were 3664 and 3436 GP completers in Waves 3 and 4, respectively. Main outcome measures: The association between the desire to reduce hours and doctor, job and geographic characteristics; the association between predictors of the capability to reduce hours and these same doctor, job and geographic characteristics. Results: Over 40% of GPs stated a preference to reduce their working hours. Characteristics that predicted this preference were being middle-aged, being female, working ≥ 40 hours per week (all P < 0.01), and being on call (P = 0.03). Factors associated with not wanting to reduce working hours were being in excellent health, being satisfied or very satisfied with work (both P < 0.01), and not being a partner in a practice (P < 0.01 for a number of alternative options [ie, associates, contractors and locums]). Of those who wanted to reduce working hours, 26.8% successfully managed to do so in the subsequent year (where reduction was defined as reducing hours by at least 5 per week). Predictors of successfully reducing hours were being younger, female and working ≥ 40 hours per week (all P < 0.01).Conclusion: A number of factors appear to determine both the desire of GPs to reduce hours and their subsequent success in doing so. Declining working hours have contributed to the perceived shortage in GPs. Therefore, designing policies that address not just the absolute number of medical graduates but also their subsequent level of work may alleviate some of the pressures on the Australian primary health care system.
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