A longstanding dermatology workforce shortage is leading to long waits for some Canberrans needing to see a skin specialist.
Canberra dermatologist Dr Andrew Miller, who is a former president of The Australasian College of Dermatologists, said there needed to be greater investment in the training of specialists, especially outside the major cities.
He said the wait to get an appointment with a dermatologist in Canberra was often about six months, while those attending hospital clinics often waited upwards of a year.
Despite the shortage, he said local doctors effectively triaged patients so those who needed urgent treatment were seen quickly.
But people with conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis - which can have a significant impact on someone's quality of life - may wait long periods to see a specialist.
"They can in both instances be extraordinarily severe and stop people from functioning in society," Dr Miller said.
There are currently 4.2 full time equivalent dermatologists working in Canberra, but Dr Miller said about 10 were needed to properly service the region.
While the territory has recently gained a new consultant, another doctor's recent retirement and the relocation of Dr Leona Yip to Brisbane with her family means the territory has about two fewer specialists working today than a few years ago.
Dr Miller said federal and state governments had historically placed a low priority on dermatology training.
After years of lobbying, a second dermatology trainee - funded by the Territory - started work in Canberra a few weeks ago.
The other trainee is funded by the Commonwealth.
Dr Miller said a strong training program was the best way to encourage specialists to come back to Canberra when fully qualified.
Canberran Ray Stone knows he is, in a sense, one of the lucky ones.
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About 12 months ago his doctor realised his skin cancer occurrences were getting too frequent and he was referred to a dermatologist.
"My father had experienced problems with his skin health, so I was aware of the importance of a dermatologist and their expertise in treating the skin, hair and nails," Mr Stone said.
"I needed frequent visits to the dermatologist for check- ups, skin cancer removals and frequent biopsies.
"My dermatologist in Canberra was extremely thorough and proactive in her approach to my care and she put me at ease.
"Though this has been my personal experience I know that for many Australians living in more regional areas of the country, access to a skin specialist is not always so easy.
"I think it needs to be addressed from a political perspective with regard to funding and attracting dermatologists to regional areas."
About four months into consulting with a specialist dermatologist, Mr Stone was diagnosed with a melanoma.
"At the time of the melanoma diagnosis, there was no evidence of the cancer having spread, but in May 2019, my wife and I both experienced ill health while we were on a cruise to Papua New Guinea," he said.
"After our holiday, I had to undergo further medical testing which revealed that the melanoma had in fact spread to my lung and I am currently having treatment for that.
"After I was diagnosed with a melanoma, my dermatologist ticked every box to try and minimise any ongoing impact to my health."
Mr Stone encouraged patients from both metropolitan and regional areas to visit their GP as soon as they noticed anything suspicious on their skin.