Health Workforce ENewsletter Edition 3

Welcome to the third edition of Health Workforce Update.

Page last updated: 11 April 2019

A word from the CMO
Australian General Practice Training 2020 intake – Apply now
National Medical Training Advisory Network meeting update
Consultation - Review of Nursing Education
CRANAplus Rural Nursing Symposium
Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable
APNA National Conference launches Nurse 2022
2019-20 Budget handed down
Visas for GPs update

A word from the CMO

Chief Medical Officer
Professor Brendan Murphy.

Why we need a National Workforce Strategy

Australia has one of the best medical systems in the world. However, Australia’s medical workforce faces a number of longstanding and emerging challenges. These challenges include ensuring appropriate workforce numbers and distribution, ensuring consistent training, the changing needs of the population and equity of access, particularly between city and country.

The Australian Government, in partnership with state and territory governments, is tackling these pressures head-on, reforming key parts of the system to build a national long-term health plan. Essential to the success of the health plan is ensuring Australia has the medical workforce to deliver it – the right people with the right mix of skills across the country.

The National Medical Training Advisory Network (NMTAN) has identified the need to implement a national approach to medical workforce planning and policy development. A national perspective on the future medical workforce will ensure investment in education and training leads to the services needed by the population.

The purpose of the Strategy is to provide a framework for medical workforce planning activities at all levels, which match the supply of GPs, non GP specialists and consultant physicians to the predicted medical service needs of the community.

The Strategy will integrate with other key Commonwealth-led strategies including the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Workforce Plan and the National Nursing Strategy.

Collaboration with states, territories and stakeholders

The development of the Strategy was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council (CHC) at its 8 March 2019 meeting. See COAG CHC Communiqué.

The Australian Government Department of Health and NMTAN are developing the Strategy in collaboration with the states and territories, specialist medical colleges, key medical professional associations and other key stakeholders. The NMTAN membership has formed a steering committee that will apply its expertise to inform each stage of the development and implementation of the Strategy.

The Strategy is being progressed as a high priority to ensure the medical workforce is appropriately structured to drive long-term improvements to health outcomes.

Picture of Doctor Jyothi Vardhi

Australian General Practice Training 2020 intake – Apply now

The Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program is a fully Government funded training program for medical doctors looking for a career in general practice or in rural and remote medicine in Australia.

Applications for the AGPT Program in 2020 are now open and close at 10 am AEST Monday 29 April 2019 with 1,500 training positions available nationally.

Registrars in the AGPT program train towards Fellowship with one (or in some cases both) of Australia’s two general practice training colleges, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). Training is delivered by nine accredited Regional Training Organisations.

Applicants apply for a training place online through the GP colleges’ websites. Applicants are asked to provide supporting documents, referee details, training region preferences and pathway (Rural or General) during this process.

A new guide has been developed showcasing the options available for GP training in Australia and a career in general practice, and is available on the AGPT website.

National Medical Training Advisory Network meeting update

Medical workforce planning and the development of the National Medical Workforce Strategy were the focus of the National Medical Training Advisory Network (NMTAN) meeting held on 22 March 2019. Topics covered included an overview of the interaction between key Stronger Rural Health Strategy measures, an update on the District of Workforce Shortage (DWS), a demonstration of the beta version of the HeaDS UPP tool and a presentation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

NMTAN provides policy advice on medical workforce planning and medical training to inform government, health and education sectors. NMTAN is made up of member organisations with an interest in medical training, including medical colleges, universities, local health districts, state and territory health departments, employers, regulation and accreditation agencies, prevocational medical education agencies, trainee doctors and the Department of Health. An overview of NMTAN, members, function and meeting communiques can be found on the departments website.

Consultation - Review of Nursing Education

Nurses account for more than 40 per cent of the health workforce, and of all the health professions have the best distribution across Australia.

Nurses are often the healthcare professional with the highest contact rates within acute care, residential aged care, and in rural and remote settings. It is essential that the nursing workforce is appropriately trained, “work ready”, able to meet rapidly changing service delivery environments and provide health care across the lifespan of all Australians.

The first independent review since 2002 of the current educational preparation of nursing in Australia will look at whether nurses are fully equipped to meet the future needs of the community. The review will consider national and international trends and consult extensively with consumers and representatives from the health, aged care, disability, education and regulatory sectors. It will also look at student selection factors and how pathways can shape future careers. The review may result in a renewal of educational preparation.

Outcomes of the review will also consider factors that affect nurses entering the workforce early in their careers, including participation and options of career pathways.

The National Nursing and Midwifery Education Advisory Network (NNMEAN), together with representation from the Department of Education and Training, will act as the Advisory Group for the review. NNMEAN comprises representatives from the nursing and midwifery sectors, university, vocational education and training sectors, and private hospital employer groups.

Consultations have already commenced and will close on 21 June 2019. Findings will be released in 2019. To join the consultation, visit the Department’s Consultation Hub.

Picture of attendees at CRANA plus Rural Nursing Symposium.

The Inaugural CRANAplus Rural Nursing Symposium was held In Canberra on 28 February 2019.

CRANAplus Rural Nursing Symposium

More than 60 rural nurses, leaders and academics recently attended the inaugural CRANAplus Rural Nursing Symposium in Canberra. The focus of the symposium was to identify issues unique to rural nurses and share success stories at the grass root level.

There was robust discussion about the lack of an identified ‘pipeline’ into the rural nursing profession and the barriers rural communities experience in trying to develop their own workforce. Issues such as the ageing population in rural nursing, ongoing challenges with recruitment and retention as well as how to best support nursing students and graduates in the rural context were also discussed. The symposium also provided an opportunity to present case studies of what is working for rural nurses, with rural nurses sharing optimistic stories of what can be achieved at the grass roots level.

Presentations covered topics such as rural nurses in a public hospital, inequity in rural nursing and recent research into issues around rural hospital nurses.

Picture of Senator the Honorable Minister McKenzie standing with members of the Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable.

The Inaugural CRANAplus Rural Nursing Symposium was held In Canberra on 28 February 2019.

Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable

Minister McKenzie hosted the Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable on 28 March 2019. The Roundtable brings together representatives from 18 peak bodies to shape rural health policy. Members discussed: the announcement of $62.2 million to commence implementation of a National Rural Generalist Pathway; options for improving access to allied health services in rural communities; and GP telehealth consultations in remote and very remote communities. The members also watched a demonstration of the HeaDSUPP tool. A communique will be published on the Department of Health’s Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable web page in the coming weeks.

Picture of a panel session at the APNA National Conference, with 'Nurse 2022, Valued, Visible, Respected' shown on a large screen.

Caption: APNA CEO Ken Griffin facilitates a panel session on Nurse 2022.

APNA National Conference launches Nurse 2022

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) launched Nurse 2022 at its annual conference to promote respect and recognition of nurses working in primary health care in Australia. Over 700 nurse delegates attended the Conference which was held in Adelaide from 4–6 April 2019.

The Nurse 2022 campaign aims to raise the profile of primary health care nurses, communicate their contribution, and break down barriers so that the Nurse 2022 is valued, visible and respected.

During the conference, APNA CEO Ken Griffin facilitated a panel session that outlined how the four-year campaign would strengthen the primary health care nursing profession. Delegates at the conference were the first to hear how APNA is aspiring to:

  • Improve the health of Australians by unlocking the capacity of primary health care nurses
  • Break down barriers that prevent primary health care nurses working to their full scope of practice
  • Communicate the value and contribution of primary health care nurses to safe, quality, and comprehensive primary health care.

2019-20 Budget handed down

The Australian Government handed down the 2019-20 Budget on Tuesday 2 April. A number of Health portfolio initiatives and investments were announced and are outlined in the Budget Statements. The Department also published a Health 2019-20 Budget at a Glance document on the Health website.

Funding announced for Rural Generalist Pathway Program

The Australian Government announced $62.2 million to fast track the National Rural Generalist Pathway Program.


The implementation of the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) has been deferred to 1 January 2020. This will allow practices more time to adjust to the changes in the transition from the Practice Nurse Incentive Program (PNIP) and General Practice Rural Incentives Program (GPRIP) to the WIP. The existing PNIP and GPRIP programs will continue to operate in the interim.

Further information on the WIP is available on the Department’s website.

Visas for GPs update

Overseas trained doctors seeking visas to work as General Practitioners (GPs) will be required to obtain a Health Workforce Certificate from a Rural Workforce Agency from 11 March 2019. Under this new requirement, overseas trained doctors will be directed away from well-serviced metropolitan areas to areas of workforce need, especially regional, rural and remote communities.

The number of positions being targeted each year under the initiative increased to 355 under the 2019-20 Budget. This initiative will achieve a steady reduction in the number of overseas trained doctor without impacting service provision.

Further information about the Health Workforce Certificate application process is available on DoctorConnect. A media release on the initiative was published on the Department’s website last month.