Impact of rural workforce incentives on access to GP services in underserved areas: evidence from a natural experiment

Megha Swami, Anthony Scott

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Financial incentives are often used to improve recruitment and retention of physicians in rural and remote areas. In 2010, the General Practice Rural Incentive Program (GPRIP) was introduced in Australia, causing an exogenous change in the eligibility for rural incentives for some geographical areas. This study investigates the effect of this policy reform on waiting times for a non-urgent GP appointment using panel data (2008–2014) on 2058 GPs. Using difference-in-difference methodology, results show that the number of GPs in practices in newly eligible areas increased. However, no evidence is found that this reduces waiting times for existing patients, and only weak evidence is found that waiting times for new patients fell, by around 16%. Our results suggest that financial incentives may only play a limited role in improving access to primary care and should not be the only solution to address medical workforce shortages in underserved areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114045
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Difference-in-differences
  • Financial incentives
  • MABEL Survey
  • Primary care
  • Rural workforce
  • Waiting times

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