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Entrenched Medical Shortage is Becoming Increasingly Unsafe

Entrenched Medical Shortage is Becoming Increasingly Unsafe

The future: reducing services to maintain safe practice

Shortages the norm

Shortages of public hospital medical specialists, which have existed for many years in many areas, have become so entrenched that the resulting sub-standard conditions have become the ‘norm’. That is one of the key findings of a comprehensive report by the ASMS on issues concerning the demand and supply of specialists in New Zealand.

Specialists are the glue that holds public hospital services together. Up until now services have been held together by specialists giving priority to meeting patients’ clinical needs at the expense of their supervising, training and leadership roles. But that situation is becoming increasingly unsafe, it is limiting the training and experience of our future specialists, it is hugely wasteful, and is contributing to a high turnover of both junior doctors and specialists. Unless this is urgently addressed, many hospitals will need to reduce services in the near future to maintain safe practice.

The assessment

This assessment is based on government documents, published research and the most recent workforce data from the Medical Council of New Zealand and District Health Boards. The research and data show:

• More specialists are entering the workforce but well short of the numbers needed – and agreed with DHBs – to enable safe and sustainable services. Each year, with every shortfall, the workforce deficit grows.

• Retention of our new specialists and potential future specialists is getting worse, especially among overseas-trained doctors.

• On current trends, in the next five years an estimated 19% of the specialist workforce could be lost due to a drop-off of doctors from the age of 55.

Entrenched shortages means that the invaluable leadership that hospital specialists could provide in order to reduce significant financial wastage and improving cost effectiveness in our public health system is being obstructed.

The report, The Public Hospital Specialist Workforce: Entrenched shortages or workforce investment? can be accessed at: http://www.asms.org.nz/

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