National Maternity Services Plan

Priority 3 — workforce

Information about the maternity services workforce.

Page last updated: 2011

Action 3.1 Plan and resource to provide an appropriately trained and qualified maternity workforce that provides clinically safe woman-centred maternity care within a wellness paradigm
Action 3.2 Develop and support an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maternity workforce
Action 3.3 Develop and support a rural and remote maternity workforce
Action 3.4 Facilitate a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration in maternity care

Action 3.1 Plan and resource to provide an appropriately trained and qualified maternity workforce that provides clinically safe woman-centred maternity care within a wellness paradigm

(Aligned with Principles 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

The demand for maternity care arising from the current ‘baby boom’ has been compounded by workforce shortages and the ageing of the maternity workforce, particularly the medical and midwifery workforces.4 As government initiatives to increase the supply of medical practitioners and midwives through increased enrolments in university courses begin to impact, the specialised education, training and experience required for midwives, obstetricians, GP obstetricians and GP anaesthetists will be supported by the continued attention of all levels of government. The education, skills and knowledge of the maternity workforce will continue to be critical to ensuring the provision of safe and high-quality maternity care.

Health Workforce Australia (HWA),57 which is in the process of building its capacity, is charged with progressing a systems approach to reviewing Australia’s health workforce capacity and projecting demand, following the work of the National Health Workforce Taskforce63 (see Appendix B). It should be noted that actions for HWA span the entire maternity workforce, across the spectrum from midwives and GP obstetricians, to (including but not limited to) maternal-fetal medicine specialists, perinatal pathologists and obstetric physicians.

Qualifications, defined scope of practice and ongoing professional development ensure that health professionals have the appropriate skills and knowledge to provide high standards of care. Continuing professional development ensures that the skills and knowledge of the workforce remain contemporary.

The Plan addresses workforce issues that facilitate the ongoing development of the maternity workforce to support the provision of safe, high-quality maternity care. Other strategies to support the maternity workforce with particular regard to planning can be found under Priority 4.
The initial yearThe middle yearsThe later yearsSigns of success
3.1.1 AHMAC recommends to HWA the investigation of drivers of productivity, performance and retention of the maternity workforce.HWA investigates strategies to improve productivity, performance and retention for the maternity workforce.HWA makes recommendations to increase maternity workforce productivity, performance and retention.The maternity workforce demonstrates increased productivity, performance and retention.
Future maternity workforce planning is informed by HWA recommendations.
3.1.2 AHMAC recommends to HWA that work is undertaken to guide the future development of requirements for education and clinical training for the maternity workforce and ensure that training places meet this need.AHMAC and HWA facilitate increased access to clinical training places for midwives, GP obstetricians, specialist obstetricians, anaesthetists and neonatal paediatricians.
AHMAC and HWA develop strategies to increase funding for clinical training places for the maternity workforce.
AHMAC and HWA evaluate access to clinical training places for the maternity workforce.Future maternity workforce planning is informed by HWA recommendations.
Increased clinical training places for maternity professionals.
3.1.3 NMBA applies the professional requirements for the recognition of eligible midwives.NMBA continues to assess eligible midwives.
NMBA works with HWA to monitor the numbers of eligible midwives.
NMBA continues to assess eligible midwives.
NMBA works with HWA to monitor the numbers of eligible midwives.
Demonstrated increase over time in the numbers of eligible midwives working in a variety of models and settings.
Top of pageAHMAC = Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council; GP = general practitioner; HWA = Health Workforce Australia; NMBA = Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia

Action 3.2 Develop and support an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maternity workforce

(Aligned with Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9)

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maternity workforce that is supported by culturally aware work environments is integral to providing culturally competent, evidence-based maternity care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and babies.4 However, the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce impacts on the capacity to provide this care.

Strategies to boost the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce to support the maternity care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and babies are addressed in this Plan. The Plan also addresses the provision of culturally competent workplaces that support and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce (see Action 2.2). Strategies include a national approach by all Australian governments and HWA.
The initial yearThe middle yearsThe later yearsSigns of success
3.2.1 AHMAC recommends to HWA that strategies are developed to increase access to a range of programs, including Certificate IV Aboriginal Health Worker, midwifery and medical training, which lead to an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce.HWA implements strategies that lead to an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce.
HWA monitors the effectiveness of strategies that lead to an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce.
HWA evaluates the effectiveness of strategies that lead to an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce.There is an increased number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce across all disciplines and qualifications.
3.2.2 Australian governments, through Closing the Gap initiatives, continue to provide support to increase the number and capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce across all disciplines and qualifications.Australian governments, through Closing the Gap initiatives, continue to provide support to increase the number and capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce across all disciplines and qualifications.
HWA monitors the effectiveness of initiatives under Closing the Gap that lead to an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce across all disciplines and qualifications.
Australian governments, through Closing the Gap initiatives, continue to provide support to increase the number and capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce across all disciplines and qualifications.There is an increased number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce, across all disciplines and qualifications.
3.2.3 The Australian Government provides scholarships (under the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scheme) for the training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the maternity workforce.The Australian Government provides scholarships for the training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the maternity workforce.The Australian Government evaluates scholarships for the training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the maternity workforce.All available scholarships are used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to join the maternity workforce.
AHMAC = Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council; HWA = Health Workforce Australia

Action 3.3 Develop and support a rural and remote maternity workforce

(Aligned with Principles 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9)

The provision of maternity care for women in rural and remote Australia is particularly affected by maternity workforce shortages.57 Strategies to increase the rural and remote maternity workforce will enable more women in rural and remote communities to receive maternity care nearer to where they live. This will also enable the women’s families to participate in their maternity care experience.
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Other strategies to support the rural and remote maternity workforce are detailed throughout Priority 3.
The initial yearThe middle yearsThe later yearsSigns of success
3.3.1 The Australian Government continues to provide locum support for the rural maternity workforce.
The Australian Government considers expanding locum support for the rural and remote maternity workforce.
The Australian Government continues to provide support for the rural maternity workforce.The Australian Government continues to provide locum support for the rural maternity workforce.
The Australian Government evaluates locum support for the rural and remote maternity workforce.
Australian women in rural and remote Australia have access to continuity of service through the provision of locum support for the maternity workforce.
3.3.2 The Australian Government provides training scholarships to increase the maternity workforce in rural and remote Australia.The Australian Government provides training scholarships to increase the maternity workforce in rural and remote Australia.The Australian Government continues to provide training scholarships to increase the maternity workforce in rural and remote Australia.
The Australian Government evaluates the provision of training scholarships to increase the maternity workforce in rural and remote Australia.
Training scholarships are available and used by the rural and remote maternity workforce.
Women in rural and remote Australia have increased access to local maternity care.
3.3.3 Australian governments explore options for the flexible delivery of education and training for the rural and remote maternity workforce.Australian governments implement the flexible delivery of education and training for the rural and remote maternity workforce.Australian governments evaluate the provision of flexible education and training for the rural and remote maternity workforce.The rural and remote maternity workforce has increased access to education and training.

Action 3.4 Facilitate a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration in maternity care

(Aligned with Principles 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10)

In 2008, Australian Health Ministers endorsed interdisciplinary collaboration as a key element of providing safe and high-quality maternity care.36 AHMAC has undertaken a range of projects designed to foster collaboration between maternity professionals (see Appendix A).
Other strategies to support the rural and remote maternity workforce are detailed throughout Priority 3.

An interdisciplinary collaborative approach to maternity care requires a culture that recognises and effectively utilises the individual qualifications, skills and experience of all members of the maternity workforce. This enables all maternity care professionals to work to their full scope of practice and support new, smarter ways of working that will benefit women, their babies and their families.

This Plan describes the initial steps required to develop interdisciplinary collaboration in maternity care across all settings. Interdisciplinary collaborative practice is supported through a range of mechanisms, and will continue to be developed under the auspices of AHMAC as a priority of this Plan.
The initial yearThe middle yearsThe later yearsSigns of success
3.4.1 AHWMC considers the recommendations arising from the Core Competencies and Educational Framework for Primary Maternity Services Final Report (June 2010).Propose that AHWMC works with HWA and AHPRA to implement agreed actions arising from the Core Competencies and Educational Framework for Primary Maternity Services Final Report.As per the middle years.Agreed actions arising from the Core Competencies and Educational Framework for Primary Maternity Services Final Report are implemented.
3.4.2 The Australian Government, through the NHMRC, develops National Guidance for Collaborative Maternity Care.Australian governments consider the use of the National Guidance for Collaborative Maternity Care in the development of maternity care policy.
The maternity workforce incorporates the National Guidance for Collaborative Maternity Care in their clinical practice.
The Australian Government evaluates the uptake of the National Guidance for Collaborative Maternity Care.Health professionals utilise the National Guidance for Collaborative Maternity Care.
AHPRA = Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency; AHWMC = Australian Health Workforce Ministers Council; HWA = Health Workforce Australia; NHMRC = National Health and Medical Research Council Top of page