Changes to workforce programs come into effect

Published
02 Jul 2019

02 Jul 2019

The Department of Health has announced changes to the workforce distribution system for doctors. The aim is to better identify areas of need.

This fact sheet from the Department of Health explains what the changes mean for bonded doctors and international medical graduates (IMGs) working as GPs.

Health Workforce Distribution Priority Areas

From 1 July 2019, a new health workforce Distribution Priority Area (DPA) classification system will replace the Districts of Workforce Shortage (DWS) Assessment Areas for GPs and Bonded Doctors. The system will better facilitate placing medical practitioners in communities of greatest need across Australia.

Instead of using a GP-to-population ratio, the new DPA system takes into account demographics (gender/age) and socio-economic status of patients living in a GP catchment area.

The DPA also applies a number of blanket rules:

  • Inner metropolitan areas are automatically deemed non-DPA;
  • MM 5 – 7 are automatically deemed DPA;
  • Northern Territory is automatically deemed DPA;

Benchmarks will be used to determine services required in GP catchment areas and will be fixed for three years to allow areas to stabilise their workforce.

The change provides a more accurate picture of where patients access their health services.

Benchmarks will be used to determine services required in GP catchment areas and will be fixed for three years to allow areas to stabilise their workforce.

The change provides a more accurate picture of where patients access their health services.

A map of Distribution Priority Areas is available on doctorconnect.gov.au.

What this means for GPs

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who specialise in General Practice are required to work in a DPA in order to obtain a Medicare Provider Number.

An area that has been classified as a DPA for GPs has been assessed as not receiving adequate GP services for the needs of that population. For GPs the DPA uses Modified Monash (MM) 2 as the benchmark as it provides a more accurate distribution of the GP workforce.

What this means for Bonded Doctors

The Bonded Medical Places (BMP) and Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) Schemes provide students a medical place in return for a commitment to practice in a DPA for a specified period.

An Australian trained bonded doctor with return of service obligations are required to work in a DPA to access the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). If an area is recognised as DPA, local practices can employ these doctors to increase the workforce and improve the community’s access to medical services that are subsidised by MBS fees.

The methodology for DPA bonded doctors is the same as for DPA for GPs. The benchmark is set at the national level instead of MM 2 to ensure bonded doctors are not disadvantaged due to their existing contractual arrangements.

Further information can be found at: Bonded Medical Places (BMP) Scheme

To view this information in full go to the Australian Government Department of Health website.