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Advisory Committee tackles medical workforce issue

Professor Andrew Hornblow, Chair, Health Workforce Advisory Committee

Health Workforce Advisory Committee tackles medical workforce issues

The Health Workforce Advisory Committee (HWAC) is establishing a specialist reference group to help it tackle the complex issues relating to the medical workforce in New Zealand.

The 10-member group brings together students in training as well as specialists in rural general practice, secondary and tertiary health services and represents many years’ expertise across the health sector and across the spectrum of the medical workforce.

The formation of the group was one of HWAC’s recommendations in its August 2003 report to the Minister of Health on future directions for the New Zealand health workforce.

‘The workforce is the health sector’s greatest resource,’ says Annette King, Minister of Health. ‘I am delighted at the calibre and composition of this group of people who have stepped up to work with HWAC on the very important and pressing issues confronting the medical workforce.’

Professor Andrew Hornblow, Chairman of HWAC, also welcomes the formation of the group. ‘HWAC has made significant progress over the last year or more in working with the health sector to set strategic directions and a framework for the development of New Zealand’s health workforce.

‘We are now in a position to tackle issues to do with the recruitment and retention of skilled health practitioners in the medical workforce in a way that would not have been possible earlier, and the reference group will have a crucial role in this,’ says Professor Hornblow.

Commenting further, Professor Hornblow noted, ‘HWAC’s 2002 stocktake of the health workforce showed that while the number of medical practitioners increased 36 percent between 1990 and 2000, the demographics of the medical workforce are changing significantly. At the same time, the demand for medical services and the capacity for medical interventions are increasing relentlessly, and global trends are impacting more and more on health care in New Zealand. The medical reference group will address these issues.

The reference group, which includes three members of HWAC, is:

Dr George Salmond Chair (HWAC) Professor John Campbell

Dr Peter Leslie Mrs Anne Kolbe

Dr Don Simmers Dr Dwayne Crombie

Dr David Galler Cindy Towns

Dr Ralph Wiles (HWAC) Jane Lawless (HWAC)

The reference group is to begin by:

• Assessing medical workforce information requirements for supply and demand analysis. This analysis will take into account:

o demand for doctors, including how they deliver services and medical workforce capacity requirements

o current supply from the education sector and immigration, also recruitment and retention issues

o planning processes, to improve information systems and use of short- and long-term measures to ensure capacity

o professional issues including professional development, flexible employment opportunities, career pathways etc.

• Reviewing the structure of medical service delivery. This project will explore doctors’ work in terms of specialist, generalist and resident medical officer roles in an environment of patient-centred service delivery. Primary care, cancer control and diabetes may be used as examples to explore this issue.

Appointments to the Medical Reference Group are for a year initially, to allow for a review of the group’s tasks and membership. The group is advisory to HWAC and will work within HWAC’s Terms of Reference.

HWAC’s medical reference group will add strength to the increasing emphasis being given to health workforce development by District Health Boards (DHB’s). Chair of DHBs’ collaborative workforce group, and appointee to the HWAC medical reference group, Dr Dwayne Crombie says, ‘District Health Boards recognise that the workforce is the sector’s greatest asset and have focused on building our collective capacity to respond to workforce issues. HWAC’s medical reference group will be able to provide advice on some of the more complex issues facing the medical workforce in a changing service delivery environment’.


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