Flinders Medical Students' Society

Workforce Planning

workforce2-2015

Recently released by Health Workforce Australia is the workforce plan for doctors. Currently, Australia’s health workforce is under tremendous pressure and must undergo significant transformation to meet the rapidly rising demands for healthcare. Uncoordinated decision making in the past in the absence of an active workforce planning mechanism has seen a “boom and bust” cycle in medical training and resulting doctor numbers. This has a cost to the community and a cost to the taxpayer.

There are three key factors that underpin the importance of national workforce planning for doctors.

First, there is an immediate need to deal with the significant increase in domestic medical students that has occurred over the last ten years. This presents an opportunity for us to decide where we want medical students to go in the future to end up with doctors in the right locations and specialties that will be needed in the future.

Second, due to the age demographic of the medical workforce, a huge number of doctors will retire from 2025. The length of time it takes to train a doctor means that short term changes in training levels are not an effective response to short term imbalances between supply and demand. This re-enforces the need to plan over a medium term time horizon and to minimise short term movements in medical intakes, which could be better dealt with using temporary migration.

Third, is the lack of coordination across the medical training pipeline - between governments, universities, medical colleges and the various employers of doctors - there are hundreds of individuals making decisions on how many doctors and what type of doctors are trained in Australia. Ensuring these individual decisions are aligned to what the nation needs from doctors in the future is essential.

Three key recommendations have been put forward with regards to workforce planning include:

  1. Planning for the future medical workforce should be based on:
    • A link between growth in the economy and deamnd for doctors over the long term; and
    • A small proportion of productivity gians being used to reduce workforce requirements.
  2. Workforce modelling results are reviewed anually to determine requirements for future adjustments
  3. The National Medical Training Advisory network should prioritise further policy work in the following areas:
    • Capacity for and distribution of medical training
    • Employment patterns and intentions of prevocational doctors

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