Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Shape of allied health: an environmental scan of 27 allied health professions in Victoria

Susan A. Nancarrow A E , Gretchen Young B , Katy O’Callaghan C , Mathew Jenkins D , Kathleen Philip D and Kegan Barlow A

A Southern Cross University, School of Health and Human Sciences, Military Road, East Lismore, Lismore, NSW 2483, Australia. Email: susan.nancarrow@scu.edu.au; kegan.barlow@scu.edu.au

B Young Futures, 98 Kilkivan Avenue, Kenmore, Brisbane, Qld 4069, Australia. Email: gretchen@youngfutures.com.au

C Outpost Consulting, PO Box 23, Mt Nebo, Qld 4520, Australia. Email: katy.ocallaghan@icloud.com

D Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Workforce Development Group, Melbourne, Vic., Australia. Email: Matthew.Jenkins@dhhs.vic.gov.au; Kathleen.philip@dhhs.vic.gov.au

E Corresponding author. Email: susan.nancarrow@scu.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16026
Submitted: 3 February 2016  Accepted: 12 May 2016   Published online: 11 August 2016

Abstract

Objective In 2015, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services commissioned the Victorian Allied Health Workforce Research Program to provide data on allied health professions in the Victorian public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Herein we present a snapshot of the demographic profiles and distribution of these professions in Victoria and discuss the workforce implications.

Methods The program commenced with an environmental scan of 27 allied health professions in Victoria. This substantial scoping exercise identified existing data, resources and contexts for each profession to guide future data collection and research. Each environmental scan reviewed existing data relating to the 27 professions, augmented by an online questionnaire sent to the professional bodies representing each discipline.

Results Workforce data were patchy but, based on the evidence available, the allied health professions in Victoria vary greatly in size (ranging from just 17 child life therapists to 6288 psychologists), are predominantly female (83% of professions are more than 50% female) and half the professions report that 30% of their workforce is aged under 30 years. New training programs have increased workforce inflows to many professions, but there is little understanding of attrition rates. Professions reported a lack of senior positions in the public sector and a concomitant lack of senior specialised staff available to support more junior staff. Increasing numbers of allied health graduates are being employed directly in private practice because of a lack of growth in new positions in the public sector and changing funding models. Smaller professions reported that their members are more likely to be professionally isolated within an allied health team or larger organisations. Uneven rural–urban workforce distribution was evident across most professions.

Conclusions Workforce planning for allied health is extremely complex because of the lack of data, fragmented funding and regulatory frameworks and diverse employment contexts.

What is known about this topic? There is a lack of good-quality workforce data on the allied health professions generally. The allied health workforce is highly feminised and unevenly distributed geographically, but there is little analysis of these issues across professions.

What does this paper add? The juxtaposition of the health workforce demographics and distribution of 27 allied health professions in Victoria illustrates some clear trends and identifies several common themes across professions.

What are the implications for practitioners? There are opportunities for the allied health professions to collectively address several of the common issues to achieve economies of scale, given the large number of professions and small size of many.


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