Request a review of a DPA classification

Medical practices can request a review of their area’s Distribution Priority Area (DPA) classification if exceptional circumstances apply. Find out about the process and what you need to do before requesting a review.

About the DPA classification

We use health workforce classification systems to help improve access to medical services in areas experiencing health workforce shortages.

The DPA classification system does this by:

  • identifying areas experiencing general practitioner (GP) service shortages
  • directing location-restricted doctors to these areas.

For example, to be eligible for Medicare, international medical graduates who want to work in Australia as a GP must work in practices located in a DPA.

When you can request a review

Medical practices can request a review of the DPA classification if:

  • there are exceptional circumstances affecting access to GP services in their GP catchment
  • the last annual DPA update did not consider these circumstances. 

If approved, practices in that GP catchment can access several workforce programs until at least the next scheduled DPA update. This includes programs that support access to a broader pool of doctors to recruit from, such as:

Who can request a review

GP practices must first consult with their local Rural Workforce Agency (RWA) about the situation in their catchment. The RWA can then submit a review. 

The practice must be in a Modified Monash Model MM 1 outer-metropolitan location.

MM 1 inner-metropolitan locations are not eligible for DPA status review. MM 2 to 7 areas are automatically DPA.

Check your area’s geographical classification on the Health Workforce Locator map.

If you would like to request a review, contact the RWA in your state or territory.

How we consider review requests

When we receive a request from an RWA, we do an initial assessment. We may seek more information about the workforce situation in the catchment from the RWA or Primary Health Network.

After the initial assessment, the Distribution Working Group:

  • analyses the request, the initial assessment, GP-related data and health workforce distribution data
  • provides a recommendation to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. 

The minister decides the outcome of the review.

We advise the RWA of the outcome, who will then advise the practice. 

Exceptional circumstances framework

Initial assessments and reviews will consider the below principles.

Changes to health services, workforce, or health system

When recent unexpected large changes to the health workforce have led to a substantial decrease in health services to the community. The review process considers these if the last DPA update did recognise these changes. 

This may include:

  • changes in service arrangements
  • doctors retiring without a replacement
  • hospital or other practice closures.

Patient demographics or changes

When areas have a patient demographic that:

  • is underserviced
  • needs specialised services
  • has had an unexpected sharp increase in numbers.

The review process also considers changes in an area’s:

  • socio-economic status
  • proportion of senior people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Absence of services

When areas have:

  • demonstrated difficulties in recruiting or retaining doctors
  • difficulties that are measurably worse than similar communities.

This may include a reduction in services because of doctors leaving a practice.

Outcomes of reviews

We publish review outcomes, including a summary of the assessment, to ensure transparency. 

We update the Health Workforce Locator map every year to incorporate these changes.

See DPA exceptional circumstances review outcome summaries

Request a review

Contact your RWA for advice and help with requesting a review.

Rural Workforce Agencies Network

The Rural Workforce Agencies Network is made up by Rural Workforce Agencies in every Australian state and the Northern Territory.
Date last updated:

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