Growing medical workforce increases competition, study finds

Medical ward with doctors
The ANZ – Melbourne Institute Health Report finds junior doctor numbers have increased by an average of 9.1 per cent per year since 2005.

The number of junior doctors in Australia has almost doubled in 10 years, leading to increased competition and a changing workforce composition according to the ANZ – Melbourne Institute Health Report.

Led by University of Melbourne Professor Anthony Scott, the report examines the current trends likely to influence the future of the medical practitioner workforce.

The report finds junior doctor numbers have increased by an average of 9.1 per cent per year since 2005.

Professor Scott reports that a more competitive career ladder creates incentives for junior doctors to increase effort, attain further qualifications and network, but can also lead to a greater chance of burnout, stress and bullying.

“Medicine has always been competitive, but this rise in numbers and increase in competition for coveted speciality training places will flow through to competition for jobs once they’re qualified,” Professor Scott said.

“The culture of medicine has started to change, but more must be done by governments, medical colleges and employers to ensure our junior doctors are adequately supported.”

Professor Scott found that although supply across the medical workforce is increasing at 5.2 per cent per year – 2.6 per cent above population growth – doctors’ earnings continue to grow at 1.8 per cent per year above inflation.

“More doctors have obvious implications for Australia’s health care costs, and it’s important that population health outcomes also increase in line with this increase in supply,” Professor Scott said.

“How to best use these extra doctors is a key issue for current and future policy. Doctors need to work in specialities and locations where there’s under-treatment and high need for healthcare, such as in rural areas.”

Professor Scott also said that the increased supply of doctors is likely to be absorbed by the private sector, however the public’s perception of the value of public healthcare is changing.

ANZ Head of Health Richard Grayson said: “We’re pleased to partner with the Melbourne University on the launch of this report to highlight key trends in the medical workforce.

"Doctors play a critical role in the health care industry. To ensure the best outcomes for all stakeholders, it’s important to understand key trends and how these could impact future access to health care.”

The ANZ/Melbourne Institute Health Report uses the latest available data from the Australian government Department of Health’s Medicare Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, as well as the Melbourne Institute’s custom-designed longitudinal study – the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey of doctors.

It is the third in a series of health sector-specific reports commissioned by ANZ and researched and written by the University of Melbourne. The views in this report are those of the author and not the ANZ Banking Group Limited.

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