Distribution Priority Area
The Distribution Priority Area (DPA) classification identifies locations in Australia with a shortage of medical practitioners. International medical graduates work in a DPA to be eligible for Medicare. Read about the DPA classification and learn how to find locations classified as DPA.
What is the Distribution Priority Area classification?
Distribution Priority Area (DPA) identifies areas where people don’t have enough access to doctors, based on the needs of the community.
How DPA locations are determined
The DPA system takes into account gender and age demographics, and the socio-economic status of patients living in an area.
An area is automatically classified as DPA when it is:
- classified under the Modified Monash Model as MM 5 to 7
- in the Northern Territory
Other areas are classified as DPA when the level of health services for the population does not meet a service benchmark.
The average level of health services under MM 2 is the benchmark for international medical graduates.
An average level of health services accessed nationally is the benchmark for Bonded Medical Places.
This benchmark is compared to the needs of an area, taking into account gender and age demographics, and the socio-economic status of patients living in an area.
There are several criteria used to determine whether an area is eligible to be classified as DPA for GPs and/ or bonded doctors.
The DPA uses the latest available data. The 2021 update uses:
- MBS calendar year 2020 billing.
- Population statistics from the ABS 2019-20 Estimated Residential Population (ERP).
- We receive the ERP data broken down into Statistical Area (SA) 1 level by gender group and in 1-year age blocks.
- This information provided by the ABS is more granular than is eventually made publicly available.
The DPA uses 829 non overlapping geographical GP catchment areas. These were developed to provide a more accurate picture of where patients access their health services and the doctor patient relationship.
More information on GP catchment areas can be found in the DPA fact sheet.
Each GP catchment as two benchmarks – one for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) and another for Bonded Medical Program (BMP) participants.
The benchmarks are based on a:
- Modified Monash Model (MMM) 2 average of access to GP services for IMGs
- national average of access to GP services for BMP.
DPA is calculated by comparing the actual level of GP services provided to a GP catchment with the level of services the same community should receive if they were receiving benchmark level GP Services.
The benchmark(s) for each GP catchment are determined based on the composition of their communities, considering their demographics, including their age, sex and Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA).
If an area is assessed with lower than benchmark access to GP services, then they are given DPA status.
The DPA is linked to the Modified Monash Model (MMM) geographical classification system through the use of the following automatic rules:
- MM 1 inner metropolitan areas are automatically deemed non-DPA
- MM 5 – 7 are automatically deemed DPA
- All of the Northern Territory is automatically deemed DPA.
What DPA is used for
Australian-trained bonded doctors with return-of-service obligations work in DPA locations to access the Medicare Benefits Schedule. Practices located in a DPA location can employ these doctors to increase the workforce and improve the community’s access to subsidised Medicare services.
DPA status is used as part of the section 19AB provisions within the Health Insurance Act 1973 which targets International Medical Graduates and Foreign Graduates of Accredited Medical Schools (FGAMS) to rural areas by providing these doctors with access to Medicare in these areas only. DPA status means medical practices with DPA status can access a broader recruitment pool of doctors.
The Bonded Medical Program (BMP) also uses the DPA indicator to identify where program participants can work when returning their service obligations.
How DPA is different to other classifications
DPA shows the services of an area compared to a benchmark.
District of Workforce Shortage shows the number of non-GP specialists compared to the population of an area.
Modified Monash Model shows the remoteness of a location only.
How to find locations classified DPA
To see areas classified DPA, search the Health Workforce Locator.
Read more about the classification in the DPA fact sheet.