Tackling Australia’s new health workforce challenge

Twenty years ago, Australia faced one of its most significant health workforce challenges. With a limited supply of doctors at the time, the Howard Government implemented a successful suite of policies which has been supported by successive governments in addressing this challenge. This led to the doubling of medical graduates, the expansion of medical training places and medical workforce growth over the last two decades.

Page last updated: 14 December 2016

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14 December 2016

    • Assessment of distribution of medical school places
    • Government priority to address shortages of doctors in regional, rural and remote areas
    • Workforce data does not support establishment of new medical school places
    • Government to consider ways in which workforce need in regional, rural and remote Australia can best be addressed

Twenty years ago, Australia faced one of its most significant health workforce challenges.

With a limited supply of doctors at the time, the Howard Government implemented a successful suite of policies which has been supported by successive governments in addressing this challenge. This led to the doubling of medical graduates, the expansion of medical training places and medical workforce growth over the last two decades.

Overcoming this significant challenge has also presented a new challenge - the geographical distribution of doctors across Australia.

“Recent data released in Australia’s Future Health Workforce Report – Doctors suggests that the overall national supply is no longer the issue, rather an oversupply of doctors by as many as 7,000 is predicted by 2030,” said Dr Gillespie.

“The Coalition Government is committed to providing quality, affordable and sustainable health care to people living and working in rural, regional and remote Australia.

“Just as we assessed the way we addressed the overall doctor shortage in Australia 20 years ago and responded with policies to tackle the challenge at the time, we must now do the same to meet this different challenge.”

To begin tackling this issue, the Minister for Health, Minister for Education and Training, and Minister for Rural Health have asked their respective Departments of Health and Education and Training to jointly assess the number and distribution of medical school places and medical schools in Australia.

“This assessment, to be undertaken over the coming months, will be considered within the context of existing workforce modelling and data, two decades of workforce distribution policies, the expansion of higher education places and the Government’s priorities to address the maldistribution of medical professionals across regional, rural and remote Australia,” said Dr Gillespie.

The National Medical Training Advisory Network (NMTAN) will work closely with the Department of Health through the assessment process.

The Government will continue to work in partnership with medical associations, local communities and state and territory governments to deal with the distribution challenge and deliver health care to all Australian communities.

The Coalition Government wants Australians, no matter where they live, to have access to quality health services. The Government is investing record funding in health as part of its commitment to strengthen the regional, rural and remote health system so that Australians living in these areas have access to the best care available.

“At key points in their training and development, the structure of the training system and a lack of advanced regional, rural and remote positions tend to force new doctors back to the cities, where they often settle,” said Dr Gillespie.

“We must ensure access to high quality postgraduate training for the existing numbers of medical students and recent graduates in regional, rural and remote Australia.”

The Government has recently invested $94 million in the Integrated Rural Training Pipeline that will help retain medical graduates in regional, rural and remote areas by better coordinating the different stages of medical training within regions and build additional regional, rural and remote training capacity.

It is expected the assessment will be concluded by April next year.

For more information, contact the Minister's Office on (02) 6277 4960

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