Data on medical training is reported annually in the Medical Training and Review Panel.12

University medical training

In 2006, there were 10,849 medical students studying in Australian medical schools. Of these, 8,768 were domestic students and 2,081 were international students. Domestic medical student numbers have risen from 6,617 in 2000 to 8,768 in 2006, an increase of 32.5%. The number of domestic medical graduates expected to join Australia's workforce is projected to rise from 1,586 graduates in 2007 to 2,945 in 2012 - an 85.7% increase. Currently there are 19 medical schools.

Medical students undertake a four to six year degree (depending on undergraduate or postgraduate status) prior to undertaking two additional postgraduate years, an intern year (PGY1) and a supervised rotation year (PGY2). Following PGY2, students may choose to qualify as a general practitioner or continue further study into a medical speciality. In both years they provide services, as interns or under supervision, and as such are an important component of the medical workforce. The full training of a medical specialist takes a minimum of 12 years.

In the 1980s there was a perceived oversupply of doctors and as a result the number of university places in medicine was kept constant at around 1,200 commencements annually, with the exception of 1995 and 1996 when the restructuring of several universities from undergraduate to graduate courses reduced the overall intake to about 900 in both years. Medical undergraduate place numbers remained relatively stable from 1989 until 2001.

Medical undergraduate place numbers are now increasing, rising from 1,403 in 2003 to an expected 2,598 in 2012.

The number of medical graduations is now widely considered to be insufficient to ensure the workforce supply necessary to keep pace with increasing demands for medical services that result from both population growth and the additional demands of an increasing proportion of older people in the population and the rising incidence of chronic illness and disease.

Post graduate and vocational training

Following completion of medicine at university, all students are required to complete an intern year (PGY1) prior to being eligible for registration. This training year is completed in the hospital sector and therefore funded and managed by state and territory governments. Top of page

Table 3.2.2: Number of PGY1 commencements, 2004-2007

In 2007, there were 1,776 Australian medical graduates undertaking their intern year (PGY1), an increase of 245 places (16.0%) on 2004 figures (Table 3.2.2).

PGY1 commencements

(a)

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total1,5311,6221,7711,776
Increase since 20045.9%15.7%16.0%

(a) Student commencements include overseas trained doctors undertaking training as a requirement for general registration as a medical practitioner through the Australian Medical Council.
Source: Medical Training Review Panel 11th Report, 2008.

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Table 3.2.3: Number of PGY2 commencements, 2004-2007

Following the end of PGY1 may students complete an additional year or two prior to undertaking specialist training (including general practice). Table 3.2.3 shows that in 2007, there were 1,586 PGY2 doctors, an increase of 50 (3.3%) on 2005 figures, the last year complete national data was available. Data on the number of PGY1 and PGY2 junior doctors working in rural and remote areas is not available at a national level.

PGY2 commencements

(a)

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total1,2161,5361,3021,586
Increase since 20043.3%

(a) Student commencements include overseas trained doctors undertaking training as a requirement for general registration as a medical practitioner through the Australian Medical Council.
(b) Queensland data was not provided in 2004 and 2006.
Source: Medical Training Review Panel Eleventh Report, 2008.

Specialist training is conducted by 13 medical colleges. Qualified specialists are admitted as fellows to the relevant medical college and, in 2006, there were 1,693 new fellows admitted by medical colleges, an increase of 50.4% (567) from 2000. The main disciplines chosen by these new fellows were:
  • general practice (628 or 37.1%)
  • physicians-adult medicine (247 or 14.6%)
  • surgery (155 or 9.2%)
  • anaesthesia (135 or 8.0%)
  • psychiatry (90 or 5.3%)
  • emergency medicine (78 or 4.6%) and
  • physicians-paediatrics and child health (73 or 4.3%).
In 2006, 3,648 candidates sat final college examinations, with an average pass rate of 73.1%. The pass rate varied greatly across professions from around two-thirds for intensive care and obstetrics and gynaecology through to 98.5% for pathologists and all eight trainees sitting examinations in ophthalmology. The pass rate was 85.3% for general practice. Top of page

General practice training

Within the specialist training programs, general practice is unique in that the number of places available is controlled by the Australian Government as the sole funder of this training program. The Australian General Practice Training program (AGPT) has been designed to provide rural and regional training in general practice through the establishment of 21 regional training providers. The AGPT currently provides 600 training places annually, with registrars training towards the Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and/or the Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine. The program is administered by General Practice Education and Training Limited (GPET), a Commonwealth owned company.

Table 3.2.4: AGPT training program: Applications, training places and acceptances, 2000-2008

Table 3.2.4 summarises the intake in the training program since its inception in 2000 and identifies the number and proportion of training places in rural areas. This shows that around 40% of GP trainees are undertaking studies through the rural pathway, with 43% in rural placements in 2008.

Applications from international medical graduates (IMGs) increased by 3% from 2007 to 2008, while applications from domestically trained medical graduates decreased by 8% over the year.

Applicants and places

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Submitted applications756764661630701668693761728
Training places available400450150450600600600600600
Acceptances392429457455560532558619568
Acceptances excluding ADF557508537582568
General pathway acceptances*357329305335326
General pathway % accepted*64%66%57%58%57%
Rural pathway acceptances*200179232247242
Rural pathway % accepted*36%35%43%42%43%

* Accepted applications excluding Australian Defence Force.
Source: GPET Policy Report, December 2007.

12 Medical Training Review Panel, Medical Training Review Panel Eleventh Report, 2007.