Inconsistencies in authoritative national paediatric workforce data sourcesAmy R. Allen A , Richard Doherty B , Andrew M. Hilton B and Gary L. Freed A C
A Centre for Health Policy, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
C Corresponding author. Email: Gary.email@example.com
Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH16096
Submitted: 27 April 2016 Accepted: 13 September 2016 Published online: 28 October 2016
Objective National health workforce data are used in workforce projections, policy and planning. If data to measure the current effective clinical medical workforce are not consistent, accurate and reliable, policy options pursued may not be aligned with Australia’s actual needs. The aim of the present study was to identify any inconsistencies and contradictions in the numerical count of paediatric specialists in Australia, and discuss issues related to the accuracy of collection and analysis of medical workforce data.
Methods This study compared respected national data sources regarding the number of medical practitioners in eight fields of paediatric speciality medical (non-surgical) practice. It also counted the number of doctors listed on the websites of speciality paediatric hospitals and clinics as practicing in these eight fields.
Results Counts of medical practitioners varied markedly for all specialties across the data sources examined. In some fields examined, the range of variability across data sources exceeded 450%.
Conclusions The national datasets currently available from federal and speciality sources do not provide consistent or reliable counts of the number of medical practitioners. The lack of an adequate baseline for the workforce prevents accurate predictions of future needs to provide the best possible care of children in Australia.
What is known about the topic? Various national data sources contain counts of the number of medical practitioners in Australia. These data are used in health workforce projections, policy and planning.
What does this paper add? The present study found that the current data sources do not provide consistent or reliable counts of the number of practitioners in eight selected fields of paediatric speciality practice. There are several potential issues in the way workforce data are collected or analysed that cause the variation between sources to occur.
What are the implications for practitioners? Without accurate data on which to base decision making, policy options may not be aligned with the actual needs of children with various medical needs, in various geographic areas or the nation as a whole.
Additional keywords: data accuracy, health policy, medical specialist.
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