Bonded Medical Places Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the Bonded Medical Places Scheme

Page last updated: 13 December 2013

FAQs from prospective BMP participants
How do I apply for the BMP Scheme?
Do I have to sign a Deed of Agreement?
Do I have to come from a rural or remote area to be eligible for the BMP Scheme?
Why is the BMP Scheme only available to first year students?
Will I have to pay the HECS-HELP?
Will I receive a scholarship with my BMP Scheme place?
What training is involved in becoming a specialist doctor, including general practitioner?
What is the time commitment of the BMP Scheme?

FAQs from BMP participants at university
If I receive an offer of a BMP Scheme place from one university, will it be valid at another Australian university?
Can I transfer from my BMP Scheme place to a standard entry Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) previously known as a HECS place?
Can I defer the start of my medical degree?
Can I take leave of absense while studying for my medical degree?
If I fail one year of my studies, can I repeat?
If I complete an honours year or a research year, will I have to work an extra year in a District of Workforce Shortage?
Are graduates and undergraduates required to commit to the same Return of Service Period?
Can I take time out for parenting?
I didn’t know you needed information from me regarding changes to my circumstances. What exactly do I need to provide?
Is there further support for BMP Scheme participants while studying?
Can I apply for scholarships while in a BMP Scheme position?
What Scholarships are available for medical students?

FAQs from BMP participants who have completed their university course
Where can I work as a BMP Scheme participant?
How long is my Return of Service Period?
What is a District of Workforce Shortage?
I have just completed my Internship, and I want to take advantage of completing some of my Return of Service Period during my pre-vocational and vocational training. Can you tell me more about this?
Can I choose where to work and will I be able to practise in more than one District of Workforce Shortage location during my Return of Service Period?
I am currently doing a vocational training placement in a location that is not classified as a District of Workforce Shortage. I have a lot of patients and although not technically a District of Workforce Shortage, the practice I am working in really need me to stay. Can I request special consideration to complete my Return of Service Period here after I gain Fellowship?
Is there flexibility in my working hours during the Return of Service Period?
Am I entitled to have annual leave/sick leave during the Return of Service Period?
Does the Return of Service Period need to be continuous?
Can I specialise in an area of my choice?
How do I know if an area is an Aboriginal Medical Service?
What if I begin to work in a District of Workforce Shortage and it is subsequently reclassified and ceases to be a District of Workforce Shortage? Will I need to move areas?
If I don't complete my work in a District of Workforce Shortage will I still be able to practise as a doctor?
Can BMP Scheme participants undertake vocational training overseas?
Can I complete my Return of Service Period overseas?
I have been thinking about my Return of Service Period after Fellowship. I want to do some additional training or maybe do some work in a location that isn’t a District of Workforce Shortage. Can I do this before I start my Return of Service Period?
What happens after I complete my Return of Service Period in a District of Workforce Shortage?
What happens if I only complete part of the Return of Service Period?
Can I apply for HECS reimbursement if I am a BMP participant?

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FAQs from prospective BMP participants

How do I apply for the BMP Scheme?

The application and selection process for the BMP Scheme is the responsibility of the universities and takes place after an application to study medicine has been lodged.

While different universities may seek expressions of interest in a BMP Scheme place in different ways, the opportunity to receive a BMP Scheme place is available to all students accepted into a medical school.

For more information on the application processes used by one or more universities, contact the medical schools directly using the information provided in the Information Booklet.

Do I have to sign a Deed of Agreement?

Yes. To accept the offer of a BMP Scheme place you will need to sign the Deed of Agreement sent to you by the Australian Government Department of Health. You will need to sign the Deed of Agreement to ensure your enrolment and return it to the Department by the due date, or the offer may lapse.

Participants who sign the Deed of Agreement before 18 years of age must notify the Department within 90 days of turning 18 years old. On this advice, a Deed of Ratification will be supplied to the participant by the Department. By signing this Deed of Ratification, a participant will give unconditional consent and adopt in writing the promises made under the Deed of Agreement.

Do I have to come from a rural or remote area to be eligible for the BMP Scheme?

No. The BMP Scheme is open to all first year medical students who are Australian citizens, permanent residents of Australia or New Zealand citizens who held a New Zealand Special Category Visa on or before 26 February 2001.

Why is the BMP Scheme only available to first year students?

The BMP Scheme is only available to first year medical students due to the link between the Scheme and the creation of additional medical school places.

Will I have to pay the HECS-HELP?

Yes. You will be responsible for your HECS-HELP debt. Further advice on your individual income and HELP repayments can be obtained from the Department of Education HELP enquiry line on free call 1800 020 108 or by visiting the Study Assist website.

Will I receive a scholarship with my BMP Scheme place?

No. There is no scholarship associated with the BMP Scheme. The BMP Scheme offers students a greater chance of entry into medical school by providing funding to universities for around 700 additional Commonwealth supported medical school places each year. These extra places are specifically intended to provide more doctors for areas experiencing doctor shortages.

What training is involved in becoming a specialist doctor, including general practitioner?

There are three stages to becoming a fully qualified medical practitioner.

  1. Obtaining a degree through a medical school at university
    Students complete a medical degree at medical school in an Australian university. The medical degree will take between four to six years to complete depending on whether it is an undergraduate or graduate course.
  2. Prevocational training
    After successfully completing a medical degree, students work as an ‘intern’ in the public hospital system. Most doctors will then elect to complete one or more years of pre-vocational training after the internship, in the public hospital system and community health services
  3. Gaining Fellowship of an Australian medical college
    Fellowship training is a training program to become either a General Practitioner or other specialist, such as a surgeon or obstetrician. Training during this period is called vocational training. Most vocational training programs are between three and six years in duration.

What is the time commitment of the BMP Scheme?

After you have completed your training you will be required to complete a Return of Service Period that is equivalent to the length of your medical course at university. For a BMP participant who completed a four-year course, the Return of Service Period will be four years minus any reductions for scaling. For a BMP particiant who completed a six-year medical course, the Return of Service Period will be six years minus any reductions for scaling.

Your Return of Service Period does not commence until after you have attained Fellowship. However, you may reduce this Return of Service Period (by up to half of the length of your medical course) through eligible prevocational or eligible vocational training. The Return of Service Period can be further reduced through Scaling.

Broadly speaking, a BMP participant could expect to undertake a four to six year medical course, followed by four to eight years of training prior to commencing their Return of Service Period. A BMP participant may be committed to the BMP Scheme for around nine to sixteen years before commencing their Return of Service Period, or longer if the participant has undergone periods of deferral. Whilst this does seem like a long time, it is important to remember that the time commitment to work in a District of Workforce Shortage is only the length of time equivalent to the length of the medical course.

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FAQs from BMP participants at university

If I receive an offer of a BMP Scheme place from one university, will it be valid at another Australian university?

No. The BMP Scheme place is allocated and linked to the university making the offer of a place at medical school. This means that if you are successful in receiving an offer of a BMP Scheme place from a university, it is only valid for that specific university.

Can I transfer from my BMP Scheme place to a standard entry Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) previously known as a HECS place?

No. Your place at university is tied to the BMP Scheme. Withdrawal from the BMP Scheme after commencement of 2nd year will mean that you forfeit your medical school place and you may not be able to continue in the medical course. However, if the university agrees, you may change to a CSP before the Census date that your university finalises places in the first year that you start your course.

Can I defer the start of my medical degree?

Yes, providing your university agrees. Universities may allow you to defer starting your study after you have been offered a place under the BMP Scheme. The Australian Government would not enter into a Deed of Agreement with you in this case. It remains at the university’s discretion as to whether a BMP Scheme place would be offered to you when you commence your study in the following year.

Can I take leave of absense while studying for my medical degree?

Yes, providing your university agrees. You can take leave of absense without the Department’s (Minister’s delegate) approval for a period of less than 12 months. Any leave of absense over 12 months requires prior Departmental (Minister’s delegate) approval or you will be in breach of your Deed of Agreement.

If I fail one year of my studies, can I repeat?

Yes, if the university gives approval for you to repeat. You must notify the Department if this occurs.

If I complete an honours year or a research year, will I have to work an extra year in a District of Workforce Shortage?

No. Your Return of Service Period is equal to the length of your medical degree and does not include any additional elective study.

Are graduates and undergraduates required to commit to the same Return of Service Period?

No, undergraduate and postgraduate courses vary in length. Your Return of Service Period requires you to work for a period of time equivalent to the length of your medical degree less any credit obtained through Scaling.

Can I take time out for parenting?

Yes. Within the BMP Scheme Deed of Agreement there is provision for you to defer your obligation to the Australian Government for parenting.

A 12-month deferral period is available for a participant of either sex, for each event, including a birth or an adoption. Multiple births (e.g. twins) are counted as a single event for the purposes of a deferral period.

You will need to notify the Department in writing no later than 30 days after the commencement of the period of deferral, which must include the day on which the child was born or adopted, together with supporting evidence, such as the child’s birth certificate.

Deferrals may be granted for a period of up to one year, as specified in your BMP Scheme Deed of Agreement. You will need to seek approval from the Minister for longer leave periods or for special circumstances.

I didn’t know you needed information from me regarding changes to my circumstances. What exactly do I need to provide?

We need to be kept informed as your circumstances change. This includes:

  • Changes to your contact details.
  • While you are studying. If you have to repeat or defer a semester or year of the medical course (including taking time to do additional study).
  • When you complete the medical course, where you will be doing your Internship year and the start and end dates of the placement.
  • The location, start and end dates of all pre-vocational and vocational placements.
  • When and what vocational pathway you have chosen.
  • When you gain Fellowship.
  • When you commence Work after Fellowship, the District of Workforce Shortage location and date you commence.
  • Any other changes to your circumstances that may affect the agreement.

This information helps us to track your progress towards completing your obligations under the BMP Scheme and for the most part, proof of changes are not required, just a simple email or phone call will suffice. It also gives participants an opportunity to clarify any concerns or to ask questions. The BMP Scheme team are always happy to help you ensure you understand your obligations and options.

Is there further support for BMP Scheme participants while studying?

Yes. The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) has been engaged by the Department of Health to provide additional support through the BMP Support Program.

The BMP Support Program provides participants with the opportunity to attend national health events/conferences and enables access to ACRRM’s online medical education resources as well as communication with peers and mentors via a ‘virtual community’.

Can I apply for scholarships while in a BMP Scheme position?

Yes. Students who agree to take up a new medical school place through the BMP Scheme are able to apply for other Australian Government or State Government assistance schemes such as the Rural Australia Medical Undergraduate Scholarship (RAMUS) Scheme. It is your responsibility to ensure that you will be able to meet your obligations under your BMP Deed of Agreement if you accept a scholarship.

What Scholarships are available for medical students?

Rural Australia Medical Undergraduate Scholarship (RAMUS) Scheme

A scholarship that may interest you is the Rural Australia Medical Undergraduate Scholarship (RAMUS) Scheme.

RAMUS scholarships are targeted at medical students from a rural background who need financial support to assist with their accommodation, travel and living expenses while they are studying medicine.

Successful applicants receive a scholarship of $10,000 a year during their medical studies subject to satisfactory progress through their course and continuing financial need.

Other scholarships and information for Australian medical students

A variety of other scholarships and funding arrangements may be available to students who are interested in a career in medicine. Some of these are listed below. You can visit relevant websites or contact university scholarship offices for further information.

My Future - For scholarships, select the ‘facts’ button, then funding, then awards or financial support. Search under both medical and medicine.

The John Flynn Placement Program.
Queensland Health Rural Scholarship Scheme.
Scholarships targeted at Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health students.
Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarships

Of further interest

Information about going to university
Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA)
National Rural Health Students’ Network (NRHSN)
Rural Clinical Schools (RCS)
University Departments of Rural Health (UDRH)

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FAQs from BMP participants who have completed their university course

Where can I work as a BMP Scheme participant?

BMP Scheme participants are able to complete pre-vocational and vocational training placements in any location. Your obligation to complete the Return of Service Period in a District of Workforce Shortage does not commence until you have attained fellowship of a medical college. Should you wish to complete up to half the Return of Service Period during eligible pre-vocational (resident) or vocational (registrar) training then these placements will need to meet the minimum requirements as set out in your Deed of Agreement.

How long is my Return of Service Period?

As a doctor participating in the BMP Scheme you must work in a District of Workforce Shortage in an eligible location for a period of time equal to the length of your degree, less eligible pre-vocational and vocational training and any credit obtained through Scaling.

What is a District of Workforce Shortage?

A District of Workforce Shortage is a geographical area of Australia in which the population’s need for health care has not been met. A location is deemed to be a District of Workforce Shortage if it falls below the national average for the provision of medical services of the type provided by the BMP participant. Districts of Workforce Shortage are subject to change.

I have just completed my Internship, and I want to take advantage of completing some of my Return of Service Period during my pre-vocational and vocational training. Can you tell me more about this?

BMP Scheme participants can complete up to half the total Return of Service Period prior to attaining Fellowship in pre-vocational and / or vocational training.

Eligible pre-vocational can be completed in any location other than an Inner Metropolitan location. You can find out the status of a location by searching the map on the Rural Health Australia website. The training placement must be within one location, for a minimum of three months and you must be working for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Eligible vocational training locations vary, depending on what specialty pathway you choose, when you signed your Deed of Agreement and if you have signed a Deed of Variation since 2010. More information on Eligible Vocational training can be found on the BMP Scheme website or by emailing BMPScheme@health.gov.au.

To have an eligible pre-vocational or vocational placement count towards your Return of Service Period you must apply to the BMP Scheme prior to commencin the placement. You will need to submit an application form and proof of employment. Application forms can be found on the BMP Scheme website or by emailing BMPScheme@health.gov.au. Proof of employment must confirm the location, start and end dates of the placement you wish to claim for. This can be the letter of offer from your employer, or a purpose written, signed letter, confirming the location, start and end dates.

Can I choose where to work and will I be able to practise in more than one District of Workforce Shortage location during my Return of Service Period?

Yes, provided it is a District of Workforce Shortage in eligible locations, you choose where to work. You can fulfil your Return of Service Period by practising in one or more locations.

I am currently doing a vocational training placement in a location that is not classified as a District of Workforce Shortage. I have a lot of patients and although not technically a District of Workforce Shortage, the practice I am working in really need me to stay. Can I request special consideration to complete my Return of Service Period here after I gain Fellowship?

No. Under the BMP Scheme Deed of Agreement you must work in a District of Workforce Shortage as defined in the Agreement. Although there are many locations across Australia that require more Doctors, the BMP Scheme encourages participants to work where they are needed the most. If you choose to continue to work in a location not classified as a District of Workforce Shortage after you attain Fellowship you will be in breach of your agreement. Breach provisions may apply, including repayment of a portion of the Commonwealth Contribution Amount.

Is there flexibility in my working hours during the Return of Service Period?

Yes. You are required to work for not less than nine months of each full calendar year at an average of at least 20 hours per week, including no less than three months in any six month period.

Am I entitled to have annual leave/sick leave during the Return of Service Period?

Yes, as with normal working conditions and arrangements agreed with your employer, providing you meet your obligations under the BMP Scheme Deed of Agreement.

Does the Return of Service Period need to be continuous?

Yes. You must commence the Return of Service Period within 12 months of attaining Fellowship (i.e. a recognised specialist or General Practitioner qualification) or within 16 years of commencing your medical course. However, you can reduce your Return of Service Period by up to half of the length of your university course during eligible pre-vocational and vocational training so long as each placement is at least three months long.

It is possible to seek permission to defer your Return of Service Period in special circumstances.

Can I specialise in an area of my choice?

Yes, however, you need to be aware that a few highly specialised sub-specialties may only have facilities in Inner Metropolitan areas. Therefore, you need to carefully consider your choice of specialty, having regard to your obligations under the BMP Scheme Deed of Agreement.

The list of currently recognised medical colleges that lead to a Fellowship can be found under Schedule 4 of the Health Insurance Regulations 1975, (Health Insurance Act 1973). This list is also shown in Attachment A of the BMP Scheme Contract for information only, as it may change over time.

To investigate the types of specialties that you can study, contact details for the specialist medical colleges, including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners can be found on the Specialist Medical Colleges page of the AMC website.

Further information regarding vocational training places for Fellowship of a medical college is contained in the Medical Training Review Panel (MTRP) reports.

The MTRP reports include data on Australian medical training opportunities such as the number of:

  • BMP places provided each year;
  • Pre-vocational training positions for post graduate years one and two; and
  • Vocational medical training places.

How do I know if an area is an Aboriginal Medical Service?

All Commonwealth funded Aboriginal Medical Services, as listed on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services website are considered Districts of Workforce Shortage regardless of their location.

What if I begin to work in a District of Workforce Shortage and it is subsequently reclassified and ceases to be a District of Workforce Shortage? Will I need to move areas?

No. Under the BMP Scheme you can stay in the one location for the whole of your Return of Service Period or you can move. It is your choice.

If I don't complete my work in a District of Workforce Shortage will I still be able to practise as a doctor?

Yes, but you will be in breach of your Deed of Agreement and you may be required to repay a percentage of the Australian Government's contribution to your medical education.

Can BMP Scheme participants undertake vocational training overseas?

Yes, however you must return to Australia and commence your continuous years of Working in a District of Workforce Shortage within 12 months of attaining Fellowship. However, vocational training undertaken overseas cannot be used to reduce your Return of Service Period.

When making a decision about studying overseas, the Australian Medical Council (AMC) website has information about the implications for medical registration on your return to Australia.

You may also wish to consult with the relevant Australian specialist medical college(s) to find out whether they allow overseas placements within their Fellowship courses and what process applies in recognising the training you may undertake overseas.

Contact details for the specialist medical colleges, including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, can be found on the Specialist Medical Colleges page of the AMC website.

If you choose to gain Fellowship qualifications overseas you would then have to seek assessment of your qualifications through the AMC and the relevant Australian medical college before being recognised as a general practitioner or other specialist in Australia.

Although this procedure is administered by the AMC, the relevant specialist medical college undertakes assessment of each applicant’s training and experience. The AMC website (address above) also contains information about the recognition of overseas specialist qualifications in Australia.

Can I complete my Return of Service Period overseas?

No. After attaining Fellowship you must work in a District of Workforce Shortage in Australia.

I have been thinking about my Return of Service Period after Fellowship. I want to do some additional training or maybe do some work in a location that isn’t a District of Workforce Shortage. Can I do this before I start my Return of Service Period?

BMP Scheme participants have up to twelve months from the date Fellowship is recognised by the Department of Human Services to commence their Return of Service Period in a District of Workforce Shortage. During this 12 month period participants cannot render a Professional Service outside a District of Workforce Shortage without written approval from the Minister. This period of time is intended to allow for participants to take time to find employment in the District of Workforce Shortage location of their choice. You will need to seek approval from the Minister for a longer deferral before commencing your Return of Service Period.

What happens after I complete my Return of Service Period in a District of Workforce Shortage?

After completing your Return of Service Period in a District of Workforce Shortage, you will have no further obligations under the Deed of Agreement.

What happens if I only complete part of the Return of Service Period?

If you work for only a part of the Return of Service Period, you will be in breach of your Deed of Agreement. You may be required to repay a percentage of the Australian Government's contribution to your medical education.

Can I apply for HECS reimbursement if I am a BMP participant?

BMP participants may apply for HECS reimbursement if they undertake training in a rural and remote area. However, they are not able to receive HECS reimbursement for any placement that they are using to reduce their Return of Service Period under the BMP Scheme.

For further information, please refer to information on the HECS Reimbursement Scheme Guidelines Rural Health Australia website at and follow the link to RHWS Incentives - HECS Reimbursement Scheme.

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