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

Inconsistencies in authoritative national paediatric workforce data sources

Amy R. Allen A , Richard Doherty B , Andrew M. Hilton B and Gary L. Freed A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Health Policy, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Email: amy.allen@unimelb.edu.au

B The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), Level 2, 417 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Vic. 3004, Australia. Email: richard.doherty@racp.edu.au; andrew.hilton@racp.edu.au

C Corresponding author. Email: Gary.freed@unimelb.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16096
Submitted: 27 April 2016  Accepted: 13 September 2016   Published online: 28 October 2016

Abstract

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.


References

[1]  Medical Board of Australia (MBA). Registration standards for specialist registration. Melbourne: MBA; 2011. Available at: http://www.medicalboard.gov.au/documents/default.aspx?record=WD11%2F5428&dbid=AP&chksum=UYvxT24Gzf73VkYq9H49aA%3D%3D [verified 24 September 2016].

[2]  Health Workforce Australia. Australia’s future health workforce: doctors. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2014. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/F3F2910B39DF55FDCA257D94007862F9/$File/AFHW%20-%20Doctors%20report.pdf [verified 24 September 2016].

[3]  Health Workforce Australia. Health workforce 2025: medical specialties. Volume 3. Adelaide: Health Workforce Australia; 2012.

[4]  Medical Board of Australia (MBA). List of specialties, fields of specialty practice and related specialist titles. Melbourne: MBA; 2013. Available at: http://www.medicalboard.gov.au/documents/default.aspx?record=WD10%2f106&dbid=AP&chksum=07LyDUkqqYa5O5LXuqbSzg%3d%3d [verified 24 September 2016].

[5]  Medical Board of Australia (MBA). Medical practitioner registrant data: September 2015. Melbourne: MBA; 2015. Available at: http://www.medicalboard.gov.au/documents/default.aspx?record=WD15%2f18954&dbid=AP&chksum=8DakbZTgUf7E5sS2if7cQQ%3d%3d [verified 24 September 2016].

[6]  Department of Health. 2.3 The shortage of medical specialists and the training capacity of the health system. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2006. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/work-edu-spectr-mstsc-rept-toc~work-edu-spectr-mstsc-rept-2~work-edu-spectr-mstsc-rept-2-3 [verified 29 January 2016].

[7]  Mason J. Mason review: review of Australian Government health workforce programs. 2013. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/D26858F4B68834EACA257BF0001A8DDC/$File/Review%20of%20Health%20Workforce%20programs.pdf [verified 23 September 2016].

[8]  Department of Health. National medical training advisory network. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2015. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/nmtan [verified 29 January 2016].

[9]  McCarty MV, Fenech BJ. Towards best practice in national health workforce planning. Med J Aust 2013; 199 S10–3.
Towards best practice in national health workforce planning.CrossRef | 25370085PubMed | open url image1

[10]  Keegan B. The Cairns Post survey reveals how lack of medical specialists, crime and the economy are regions big issues. 4 January 2014. Available at: http://www.cairnspost.com.au/news/cairns/the-cairns-post-survey-reveals-how-lack-of-medical-specialists-crime-and-the-economy-are-regions-big-issues/story-fnjpusyw-1226794636561 [verified 29 January 2016].

[11]  Rural Doctors Association of Australia. The value of local specialist medical services to rural Australia. Manuka, ACT: Rural Doctors Association of Australia; 2009.

[12]  Freed GL, Nahra TA, Wheeler JR. Counting physicians: inconsistencies in a commonly used source for workforce analysis. Acad Med 2006; 81 847–52.
Counting physicians: inconsistencies in a commonly used source for workforce analysis.CrossRef | 16936499PubMed | open url image1

[13]  Staiger DO, Auerbach DI, Buerhaus PI. Comparison of physician workforce estimates and supply projections. JAMA 2009; 302 1674–80.
Comparison of physician workforce estimates and supply projections.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD1MXhtlWqs7%2FM&md5=54f12bfec90fe33f64a465ed294efa4dCAS | 19843902PubMed | open url image1

[14]  Health Workforce Australia. Health workforce data: national health workforce dataset. Adelaide: Health Workforce Australia; 2014. Available at: http://www.hwa.gov.au/resources/health-workforce-data [verified 22 February 2016].

[15]  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National health workforce data set: medical practitioners 2013. Data quality statement. Canberra: AIHW; 2014.

[16]  Medical Board of Australia. Workforce survey form: WKSY-30. Profession: medical. 2013. Available at: www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129548761 [verified 23 September 2016].

[17]  Stockman JA. Studies of the pediatric subspecialty workforce: overexposed and underexposed snapshots in time. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2004; 158 1185–6.
Studies of the pediatric subspecialty workforce: overexposed and underexposed snapshots in time.CrossRef | 15583106PubMed | open url image1

[18]  Mayer ML, Skinner AC. Too many, too few, too concentrated? A review of the pediatric subspecialty workforce literature. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2004; 158 1158–65.
Too many, too few, too concentrated? A review of the pediatric subspecialty workforce literature.CrossRef | 15583101PubMed | open url image1



Export Citation