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Building a sustainable future medical workforce

7 December 2016

Communique - Building a sustainable future medical workforce

The following is a joint statement from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) and the New Zealand Medical Students Association (NZMSA).

New Zealand has a high quality public health system and an expert medical workforce committed to providing the best possible health care. To sustain that, we need to ensure the public health system is adequately resourced and invested in, now and in the future, and that quality of health care remains the primary focus.

While international trends are toward further specialisation within medicine, in New Zealand we actually need more generalists. This is not an argument against sub-specialism but it is an argument for rebalancing the composition of the medical workforce in a country with a dispersed small critical population mass of just over four million. Medical training and education needs to produce doctors who have skills in the breadth of medicine as well as in leadership, communication, teamwork and creative thinking.

Quality of care is a critical factor for addressing the challenges ahead. High quality health care is not only good for patients and more satisfying for health professionals to provide, it also contributes to a sustainable, cost-effective health system.

In order for that to occur, greater investment in the current and future medical workforce is required. Every level of the health system needs to work together to achieve accessible care for all New Zealanders.

Providing patient centred care will not only result in better clinical outcomes for patients but, research indicates, also prove cost-effective. Focusing on quality in health care makes both sense and cents. However, it requires time to implement – doctors need time to build ‘partnerships’ with patients and, where appropriate, their families. Quality patient centred care and ongoing innovative models of care require more time to ensure and time requires more vocationally registered doctors.

Time is also needed to develop and maintain strong clinical teams and integration and alignment between services. All of this requires clinical leadership, which again draws on doctors’ time.

How this joint statement developed

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists and the New Zealand Medical Students Association held a joint conference on the challenges facing the future medical workforce in Wellington on 1 April 2016.

It was the first time the two organisations had come together in this formal way, representing both senior doctors and many of the medical students who will become the hospital specialists of the future. This was the first joint event of two medical organisations at different ends of the career spectrum, seeking to lever off each other’s attributes and experiences for the benefit of patients and the profession.

Both ASMS and the NZMSA saw the one-day conference as an opportunity to discuss issues of shared concern and to further build a collaborative relationship.

The conference featured the following speakers:

• Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) Chair Andrew Connolly on the type of specialists needed in 2025 and the challenges facing the workforce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3mkl0Njgtg

• University of Otago Medical School Dean Peter Crampton on how medical education may contribute to the future specialist workforce, including questions around increasing specialisation and the need for more generalist specialists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iuEeLz7Jks

• ASMS Policy and Research Director Lyndon Keene on how the health system might look like in 2025 based on current policies and policy proposals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc5MCSY-Ra0


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