Report on the Audit of Health Workforce in Rural and Regional Australia

4.1 Medical workforce

Page last updated: April 2008

General practice

  • The need for greater clinical training capacity and better support for supervisors was a consistent theme.
  • More training places for GPs are needed.
  • Despite policy support for training more generalists and initiatives to sustain skills, the trend continues towards sub-specialisation, diminishing practice scope among GPs and loss of generalist specialists.
  • Many junior doctors will leave a rural community disenchanted with rural practice due to a lack of infrastructure, resources and supervision.
  • Work pressure continues to increase.
  • Existing incentives do not encourage older doctors to remain in the workforce.
  • Problems still exist in attracting and retaining GPs.

Overseas trained doctors

  • There are ongoing issues of isolation as overseas trained doctors (OTDs) must live away from their support structures.
  • OTDs are often ineligible for training programs that Australian-trained doctors have access to and they receive little support to prepare for and pass registration exams.
  • OTDs are often placed in highly challenging work environments with little or no orientation
  • While the vast majority of OTDs are highly skilled, there is significant potential for OTDs with insufficient skills to slip through the net.


  • There are not enough training positions.
  • There is professional isolation and lack of support for specialists in rural areas.
  • The population base of some rural and regional areas is not large enough to sustain some specialty services and infrastructure to support some specialist services is often inadequate or lacking.
  • There are barriers and administrative issues with Australian Government funded programs being effectively used to ensure specialists reach rural and remote areas.
  • Specialists that deliver services to rural and remote areas often do this at considerable personal cost of time and effort.