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

3. Reports commissioned by major stakeholders

Page last updated: April 2008

Indigenous Health Workforce Needs

Access Economics 2004

In 2004, the Australian Medical Association commissioned Access Economics to investigate Indigenous Australians' experiences with access to health care.

Their results indicate that a shortfall in health outcomes for Indigenous people is at least partly attributable to inadequate access to health care and that solutions will:

'…require a coordinated and internally consistent strategy, …provision of the requisite additional funding and training of the requisite workforce.'
The Report suggests that in order to provide the same level of access to medical services as non-Indigenous Australians, an additional 430 full time equivalent doctors are required across all specialties with a commensurate increase in the nursing and allied health workforces.

Doing the Sums: "Will there be a future health workforce for rural and remote Australia?"

Health Workforce Queensland Australian Rural and Remote Workforce Agencies Group Ltd 2006

This report provides an overview of current and future trends in the Australian urban, rural and remote general practice workforce. It considers current and anticipated future workforce supply requirements and trends, together with investigation of factors that influence medical workforce supply and demand.

The report supports other research findings that the rural and remote GP workforce is ageing, becoming more feminised and working fewer hours. Demand for services is increasing and general practice shortages continue to exist with current training numbers insufficient to fill the gap, and that rural and remote Australia is reliant upon those doctors compelled to work in rural and remote areas.

It notes that despite increasing numbers of practitioners as a result of current initiatives, this situation will be further exacerbated by generational changes to work and lifestyle expectations. Top of page

Reality Bites: Rural and Remote GP Workforce Information

Australian Rural and Remote Workforce Agencies Group Ltd 2003

The report describes workforce information about the general practice workforce in rural and remote areas across Australia gathered by the Australian Rural and Remote Workforce Agencies Group Ltd (ARRWAG) through a minimum data set and reports on its usefulness and potential for further development.

The dataset was developed to meet contractual reporting obligations by state and territory rural workforce agencies to the Department of Health and Ageing. The purpose of the dataset is to provide consistent national data on the distribution, demographic make up, practice characteristics, specialist skills and work hours/leave of rural and remote GPs in Australia.

Utilising a range of sources to collect the data, it purports to be the only continuous longitudinal register of the medical workforce in rural and remote Australia.

Findings include a split of the types of doctors in rural/remote areas to:
  • older, largely males, who work long hours and who are likely to have been in rural areas for a significant number of years and
  • transitory doctors who move around mostly while training. They are more likely to be female and younger and have undertaken their basic training overseas. They work fewer hours and are more likely to practise emergency care and work with Aboriginal patients.Top of page

Rural Doctors Have Their Say on Key Solutions to Improve Rural Health Care Delivery

Australian Medical Association May 2007

The Australian Medical Association's Rural Health Issues Survey, conducted during March 2007 provides a breakdown of what rural doctors see as the key solutions to improving rural health care.

The survey identifies and discusses the 10 priority solutions for rural health care, many of which are directly focused on practitioner recruitment and retention. These included the following:
  • provision of extra funding and resources to support improved staffing levels at rural hospitals
  • introduce credible, nationally consistent processes of assessment and support for overseas trained doctors (OTDs)
  • expand funding for locum relief for GPs and specialists
  • ensure that rural hospitals have modern facilities and equipment
  • increase the available infrastructure, resources and supervision to support the training of junior doctors in rural areas
  • encourage medical colleges to include rural rotations for trainees to rural areas
  • ensure procedural GPs can access hospital credentialing and facilities
  • establish more integrated programs in public hospitals to support procedural skills
  • encourage medical colleges to offer more generalist training places and
  • increase funding for ancillary staff at rural hospitals.Top of page

Doctors in Rural Australia: Workforce Support Strategies

NSW Rural Doctors Network December 2003

Following a series of state based surveys conducted by the Rural Doctors Network to examine the effectiveness of recruitment and retention strategies for rural and remote GPs, the NSW Rural Doctors Network, on behalf of all Rural Workforce Agencies, obtained a grant from the Department of Health and Ageing in 2002 to develop a national database from the results of the surveys and to propose strategies to increase the participation of women in the rural and remote medical workforce.

The surveys provided a national rural and remote female GP profile and supported previous studies that flexibility in the workplace, support networks, self empowerment, feeling valued and access to training and education were important factors to recruitment and retention of female GPs.

Furthermore, it provides a review of current recruitment and retention strategies and proposes a range of strategies to increase female GP participation in the workforce.

Victorian Rural General Practice Workforce: Planning for 2002-12

Rural Workforce Agency, Victoria 2003

This paper considers the projected number of rural Victorian GPs required to meet expected demand over the next 10 years and puts forward a number of strategies needed to promote the attraction and retention of GP services in rural Victoria.

The study's findings are consistent with similar studies in that it acknowledges the reliance on overseas trained doctors to supplement the Australian GP workforce. It concludes that local training supply is insufficient to meet future demand and that supply needs to increase by 8 per cent over the forthcoming 10 years to meet the shortfall.

It provides some key directions for the future in recruitment and retention strategies, the need for early identification of GP services at risk and the need for state-wide strategies to maintaining sustainable services including the continued use of the visiting medical officer (VMO) workforce in rural hospitals.Top of page

A Study of Allied Health Professionals in Rural and Remote Australia.

Christine Ward, National President, Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health 2000

This study provides some demographic information regarding the allied health workforce in rural and remote Australia. It proposes a number of strategies to meet the education and training needs of allied health in rural and remote areas of Australia with the intention of improving retention and recruitment. It notes the need for better data collection processes to adequately describe the allied health workforce including a definition of allied health. This issue has also been raised by an AHWAC Report released in 2006.