Building the future medical workforce
By AMA VICE PRESIDENT DR TONY BARTONE
The AMA, the peak professional organisation representing Australia’s doctors, has an impressive record of leading the health policy debate by bringing together disparate organisations to find ways to solve difficult issues.
This was on display again when we had more than 80 of the people who mattered gather recently to consider one of the biggest health challenges confronting Australia — how do we build a sustainable medical workforce that will deliver the right number of highly trained doctors in the disciplines and regions where they are needed?
On 3 March 2018 we assembled in Melbourne doctors in training, representatives of prevocational and vocational medical training organisations, medical schools, Colleges, health organisations, State AMAs and Commonwealth, State and Territory health departments for the AMA Medical Workforce and Training Summit.
This was our first medical training summit since 2010, where practical solutions to address the crisis in prevocational training were put forward.
March’s summit had an ambitious agenda covering the shortage of vocational training places, the distribution of the medical workforce, the under and over-supply in some specialties and the long-standing imbalance between generalist training and sub-specialisation.
I had a clear sense that participants wanted to have their concerns heard and a strong desire to find solutions to put to policymakers. Audience polling was used to identify strategies to address issues raised during discussions.
Unsurprisingly, there was consensus that we do not need any more medical schools, and the focus must shift instead to solving the maldistribution of doctors and shortages in specialty areas and address community need by supporting extra prevocational and vocational training places.
There was also an extremely strong feeling that we need a whole-of-government approach to plan future care delivery, and for all governments to collaborate more effectively on workforce planning, training and co-ordination to meet that critical need.
Amazingly, on that last point, it’s over 15 years since Australia last had a national medical workforce strategy. I believe we must seize this opportunity to use the areas for action identified at the summit to drive a new national strategy with buy-in from the Commonwealth and the jurisdictions.
Any less is not only a disservice to the growing exodus of graduates into the highly stressful postgraduate training pipeline, but also to the Australian community poorly served with timely access to appropriately trained world-class doctors.
A detailed report on the outcomes from the day has been circulated to the participants. Some of the ideas and strategies put forward will be used to drive the AMA’s ongoing advocacy on medical workforce and training.
My thanks to the Medical Workforce Committee, the Council of Doctors in Training and the Secretariat for bringing this important event to fruition, as well as to the presenters and participants.
The final report of the Medical Workforce and Training Summit is available at: http://www.ama.com.au/medical-workforce-training-summit
Published: 14 May 2018