Annual update of Distribution Priority Area (DPA) and District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) classifications

DPA and DWS classifications are updated every year. Find out about the latest changes.

We use DPA classifications to identify challenges in GP workforce distribution. Learn more about the DPA.

The DWS classification helps us determine challenges in specialist workforce distribution. The DWS classification is calculated differently to the DPA. Learn more about DWS calculation.

Updating the DPA (for GPs) and DWS (for specialists) classifications

We update the DPA and DWS every year. The annual update for DPA and DWS takes effect on 1 July 2021.

The DPA or DWS classification of an area can change when there has been a significant shift in access to health care since the previous annual update. This might be due to changes in the workforce, or in the size or makeup of the population.

2021 update

To provide practices and communities with greater transparency, this year we are publishing, for each GP catchment, the method used to calculate the:

  • DPA status
  • level of variance above and below the DPA benchmarks.

This will help you understand service access levels as they compare with benchmarks and other areas.

This year’s update also considers the impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare access, including the data impacts of temporary telehealth items in areas which experienced significant lockdown periods, such as Victoria.

See which locations have a different DPA status this year.

View the assessment of each GP catchment.

Changes in DPA/DWS status

If an area loses DPA/DWS status, doctors who hold an existing exemption under section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973 can continue to practise at their location provided they continue to meet the conditions of their exemption. In addition, doctors already in employment negotiations with a practice prior to a status change will still be eligible for an exemption if they provide documentary evidence of this with their application.

Practices unable to employ restricted medical practitioners can still employ Australian trained doctors or doctors not subject to s19AB. 

Read about more about section 19AB.

Learn how we assess DPA areas

There are a number of components that determine whether an area can be classified as DPA for general practioners (GPs) and bonded doctors.

Learn more about the criteria we use to assess DPA areas.

Find your area’s DPA status

Being non-DPA means that at the time it was assessed, the area had a higher level of medical service provision than other areas, compared to the relevant benchmark.

You can check the status of any area in Australia using our Health Workforce Locator. Don’t forget to enter an exact address to produce an accurate result.

Medicare provider numbers and DPA assessment

Doctors can and do have multiple provider numbers during their careers. Only active provider numbers are considered in a DPA assessment.

See more about how Medicare billing data is used in calculating DPA status.

Learn how we assess DWS areas

We use a different method to calculate DWS classifications for specialists.

Learn more about DWS classifications and how we assess them.

See which locations have changed their DWS classification for each speciality.

See all 2021 DWS for specialists locations.

Seek a review of an area’s classification

The assessment of DPA and DWS classifications follows an impartial methodology.

Read more about the methodology and eligibility criteria before you consider asking for a review. Learn more about reviews and how to seek a review.

Last updated: 
14 December 2021

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