The Stronger Rural Health Strategy aims to build a sustainable, high quality health workforce that is distributed across the country according to community need, particularly in rural and remote areas. The strategy will give doctors more opportunities to train and work in rural and remote Australia and enable a stronger role for nurses and allied health professionals in the delivery of more multidisciplinary, team based models of care.
This initiative aligns to department outcomes 1, 2 & 4 in the Health Portfolio Budget Statements
- Improve access to quality medical, nursing and allied health services, particularly in rural and remote communities.
- Target support for individuals to undertake medical education and training, and then practise, in rural locations.
- Increase the number of medical practitioners achieving specialist general practitioner (GP) qualifications.
- Enable Australian trained junior doctors to undertake private practice in rural and remote locations.
- Better manage patients with complex and chronic conditions.
- Increase the sophistication of data and evidence to support improved workforce analysis and planning.
- There is an over-supply of GPs in some urban areas, and shortages in rural, regional and remote areas
- The need to incentivise non-vocationally recognised doctors to obtain specialist GP qualifications.
- The need for team based and multidisciplinary primary health care responses to Australians’ increasingly complex and chronic health needs.
Our work to achieve this initiative
- Establishing a single, integrated, quality source of health workforce and services data.
- Improving training opportunities, and supporting the teaching of students, in rural areas.
- Streamlining GP qualification pathways to support non-vocationally recognised doctors to achieve specialist GP status.
- Introducing a new Medicare Benefits Schedule fee structure to encourage non-vocationally recognised doctors to achieve GP specialist status.
- Incentivising more health professionals to work and stay in rural and remote areas.
- Funding the Royal Flying Doctor Service to deliver dental, mental health and emergency aeromedical services.
- Increasing funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Professional Organisations.
- Strengthening the role of nursing in primary health care and reviewing the current education preparation of nurses entering the workforce.
- Regulating the number of overseas trained doctors entering Australia and directing them to areas of workforce shortage (a complementary Department of Home Affairs measure).
Our role and that of our partners
- We will continue to strengthen relationships with our stakeholders.
- We are supported by the Department of Human Services which administers relevant payments and services to eligible recipients.
- We will work with the Department of Education and Training, and the Department of Home Affairs to support implementation of the Medical Schools and Visas for GP programs respectively.
Management of identified risks
Regulatory changes create gaps and/or adverse consequences for particular groups of medical trainees or doctors.
Stakeholders are not aware of changes that will affect their practice and income.
We have established a Health Workforce Regulation Taskforce to review regulatory changes across the strategy as a whole and undertake an analysis of the impact. Any identified gaps or adverse consequences will then be addressed during the implementation stage.
We are developing communication products and materials for individual changes as well as the strategy as a whole, which will be updated regularly and pushed out through multiple communication channels.
Measuring our performance against key measures
|The number of GPs in Australia.||20,315||8,786||20,721||8,962||21,136||9,141||21,558||9,324|
|The number of non–general practice medical specialists in Australia.||28,091||5,148||28,653||5,200||29,226||5,252||29,811||5,304|
|The number of nurses working in general practices in Australia.||25,389||16,100||26,199||16,422||27,085||16,750||28,055||17,085|
|The number of allied health practitioners working in general practices in Australia.||2,841||668||2,941||708||3,063||730||3,209||752|
|Percentage of medical practitioners working in general practice with fellowship of either the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.||76.6%||77.2%||77.8%||78.4%|
|The percentage of general practice training outside major cities.||50.0%||50.0%||50.0%||50.0%|
|Proportion of Specialist Training Program activity in rural areas.||40.0%||42.0%||45.0%||45.0%|
- 6 General practitioners are defined as medical practitioners with fellowship, or training towards fellowship under an accredited training program, of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.
- 7 Non-general practice medical specialists are defined as medical practitioners with fellowship, or training towards fellowship under an accredited training program, of a medical college recognised by the Medical Board of Australia, working in private practice, except those classified as General Practitioners above.
- 8 Nurses, as defined under the National Law.
- 9 Allied Health Practitioners are defined as workers registered under one of the 15 professions under the National Law.
- 10 Defined as locations identified as major cities under the geographic classification Modified Monash Model (Modified Monash area 1).
- 11 Defined as Modified Monash areas 2–7.
- 12 Defined as locations identified as outside major cities under the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Area system (ASGC–RA 2–5). Target assumes an ongoing intake of 1,500 registrars per year, and that fellowship requirements, which are outside the scope of the Department, remain unchanged.
- 13 Defined as participants in the Commonwealth-funded Specialist Training Program, reported for the calendar years ending during the relevant financial year, training in areas identified as rural under the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Area system (ASGC–RA 2–5).