There is a crisis in primary care health workforce shortages in Australia. Its government has attempted to fix this by role-substitution (replacing medical work with nursing instead). This was not completely successful. Obstacles included entrenched social roles (leading to doctors 'checking' their nurse role-substituted work) and structures (nurses subservient to doctors) - both exacerbated by primary care doctors' ageing demographic; doctors owning their own practices; doctors feeling themselves to have primary responsibility for the care delivered; and greater attraction towards independence that may have selected doctors into primary care in the first place. Yet there is much to be optimistic about this social experiment. It was conducted, if not ideally, at least in an environment that the Australian government has enriched with capacity for research and evaluation.