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HWAC Releases Health Workforce Stocktake

22 April 2002

Health Minister Annette King says a stocktake of the New Zealand health workforce, which collates information on more than 100,000 health and disability workers, will be invaluable for future workforce planning.

The New Zealand Health Workforce: A Stocktake of Issues and Capacity 2001, released today, is the first report of the Health Workforce Advisory Committee. It brings together information on the wider health workforce including social workers, support workers and other health workers for the first time.

"The health workforce is not confined to doctors and nurses. All of those working in the sector need to work together to improve the health of New Zealanders. Individual employers or health practitioners cannot solve health workforce issues alone and solutions need to be found collaboratively."

Ms King said the stocktake would provide a valuable tool in helping position the health sector to implement the New Zealand Health Strategy.

"And recently, for example, I announced funding to begin implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy. We need to start building the sort of workforce necessary to improve access to primary health care and overall health outcomes.

"While this report shows us there are more Maori health workers than ever before, only 5 percent of the registered workforce are Maori. We need to plan to increase this number as well."

The stocktake also identifies workforce capacity and key workforce issues, including recruitment and retention. The committee is aware of short-term workforce issues, but wants to ensure a foundation is laid to address workforce needs in the future. “We haven’t planned well in the past, but we must plan well from now on,” Ms King said.

Directions and options for the workforce will be outlined in the committee's next piece of work, a discussion document due to be released mid-year to be followed by consultation with the health sector. This will focus on addressing the workforce implications of the Primary Health Care Strategy, health workforce education, promoting a healthy hospital environment, building Maori health workforce capacity, building Pacific peoples’ health workforce capacity and building the health and support workforce capacity for people who experience disability.

For more information, contact John Harvey (04) 471 9305.

1. There are more than 100,000 health and disability workers employed in New Zealand.
2. Almost sixty percent of the health and disability workforce are regulated.
3. Nurses comprise (34,895) around one third of New Zealand’s health and disability workforce.
4. There are 8615 Medical practitioners working in New Zealand.
5. About 30 percent of the health and disability workforce are informal support workers.
6. About 10 percent of the health and disability workforce provide complementary and alternative health services.
7. Mäori comprise 5.4 percent of the regulated health workforce.
8. Pacific people comprise 1.8 percent of the regulated health workforce.
9. It is estimated that one-third of the regulated health and disability workforce are deployed in a community setting.
10. An estimated 8 percent of the health and disability workforce are employed in mental health services.
11. Around one-third of the health and disability workforce provide services dedicated to meeting health and support needs associated with disability.
12. There are 19 unregulated workforce groups for which there are no demographic data available.
13. There is no reliable information available about the numbers of community health workers, counsellors, health promoters and health managers
14. Many health education programmes have moved from diploma-based to degree-based entry into the profession over the last 10 years.
15. The stocktake is available on the Health Workforce Advisory Committee website

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