CPMC News – September 2019

National Medical Workforce Strategy: Data Workshop Introductory Remarks

The Chief Executive of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges was asked to give some introductory remarks to the participants involved in the inaugural National Medical Workforce Strategy, Data Workshop. The data workshop was arranged directly as a result of the discussions between the members of the Medical Workforce Reform Advisory Committee.

The Council is comprised of all fifteen specialist Medical Colleges, half of which also function in New Zealand. There is currently over 100,000 registered medical practitioners, about 57,000 are specialists.

Confucius tied true wisdom to knowing what you don’t know and exploring that. In order to progress the development of the National Medical Workforce Strategy a fuller picture of the medical workforce with data is the key.

Sharing what we know today also reflects a key objective of the strategy which is to guide long-term collaborative medical workforce planning across Australia.

We definitely need this strategy. Australia spends $181 billion dollars annually, or 10% of GDP and a large portion is spent on human resources. We need a plan to guide future requirements but to also ameliorate against massive under or over supply. I recall working on workforce planning in the mid-1990s when we projected a serious shortfall in requirements. Compare that to today where we have grown year on year and are in aggregate oversupply…11% increase overall in the past 4 years alone!!

The Australian health system challenges relate to changing patterns of disease; chronicity and ageing which places increasing demand on health services. There is a high cost of medical research and innovations. We need to make the best use of emerging health technologies. We have not made the best use of health data.

So, what do we know about the medical workforce supply and demand? There are shortages of all doctors in regional Australia and in disciplines of increasing community need, such as geriatrics, rehabilitation, psychiatry, urology, ENT, dermatology and palliative care. We have an oversupply of Emergency medicine specialists, of Intensivists, cardiologists and gastroenterologists. Emerging is an oversupply of anaesthetists and obstetricians.

We know selection into training is competitive. Australians deserve to access the best trained specialists in the world, when they need care. However, we know there are a number of challenges in the process of getting there: from the limited number of accredited training posts versus the number of applicants now vying for entry into them.

The training pipeline is segmented with multiple vested interests operating. But, everyone in it has to be involved in planning the future medical workforce. Having the jurisdictions here today is terrific. We need to better understand the process and data behind decisions regarding the availability of “posts” in health services.

We need to discuss how reliable the current health workforce dataset is if we are to utilise it to support decision on utilisation and addressing geographic mal distribution.

We need the data to project the type of medical workforce Australia will require in 10 or 20 years to meet community need which we know is ageing and increasingly complex with chronic illness. Do we have all the data we need?

The aim should be to have a data capability that allows for some serious targeted workforce planning which incorporates disease profiles in regions and cities, and to assist the specific at need groups.

CPMC fully supports this important workshop as getting the data right will contribute to ensuring our valuable medical professionals are deployed in the areas they are needed most.

Thank you to the Commonwealth for leading this process.