Australia needs a major boost in the number of GPs trained in skin cancer to cope with rising disease rates and mortality, the Skin Cancer College Australasia is claiming.
The college already trains some 600 GPs and other non-specialist skin cancer doctors annually, offering qualifications in dermoscopy, skin cancer surgery and dermatopathology as well as its own fellowship program.
But it is now arguing for that number to lift substantially, warning global cases of melanoma are predicted to increase by 50% over the next two decades.
Locally, cases are expected to rise by 40% and college director Professor Michael Kimlin says it is critical that more GPs are trained in contemporary detection and treatment techniques.
“Skilling up a workforce of general practitioners remains the most cost-effective way of addressing rising rates of skin cancers in the Australian population,” he said.
Professor Kimlin, a skin cancer researcher and epidemiologist at the Queensland University of Technology, said his colleagues were concerned over a “looming skill shortage in Australia to address this incoming tsunami”.
“With our ageing population, more and more Australians are going to be presenting with more and more skin cancers and early detection and treatment remains the most effective way to prevent unnecessary death from skin cancer as well as ballooning costs to the health care system.”
Speaking before the college’s annual congress last week, he pointed to research by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute health economist Associate Professor Louisa Gordon which estimated that treatment of stage III/IV melanoma could cost above $100,000 per year.
“As a health industry we really need to work together on this, given the serious disease burden we are facing as a nation,” Professor Kimlin said.
“It is critical that we work with the new Federal Health Minister to create an accreditation and standards system so that consumers can easily identify the qualifications of their practitioner and be confident that the practice those doctors work within adheres to robust national standards.”
Although it cannot offer AHPRA-recognised specialist training and is not registered with the Australian Medical Council (AMC), the college has locked horns with dermatology groups over the years over training and accreditation of GPs working in skin cancer clinics.
But the Australasian College of Dermatology said it broadly agreed with Professor Kimlin’s arguments.
“There is a need for standards and training for all medical practitioners involved in skin cancer and as the AMC-accredited peak body for dermatology, ACD is well placed to lead this work,” it said.
“The lack of standards and accredited training for skin cancer education for GPs can lead to patient confusion about the type of training their GP or those working in skin cancer clinics have had.”
“GPs working in skin cancer clinics may have undergone some additional training through non – or self-accredited education providers, although no special qualifications are required to work in skin cancer clinics.”
It comes after the ACD launched an educational venture last year specifically pitched at GPs called Dermatology Australasia.
Unique in being developed and taught by dermatologists at the ACD, the program offered courses and workshops on skin cancer and dermatology care designed for GPs, GP registrars, prevocational doctors and nurses.
The courses included a new 12-module Advanced Certificate in General Dermatology, as well as an Advanced Certificate in Dermatology and Skin Cancer and other courses covering specific areas such as dermoscopy, melanography and suture techniques.