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Medical pract. supply up, but primary care doctor supply falls

11 November, 2008

The overall supply of medical practitioners in Australia rose between 2002 and 2006, while the primary care doctor supply fell, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

According to the report, Medical labour force 2006, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) medical practitioners for every 100,000 people increased from 271 to 290 FTE, largely due to an overall increase in numbers.

This increase, from around 54,000 to 62,500 medical practitioners, more than compensated for a slight reduction in average working hours from 44 to 43 hours a week.

Among primary care practitioners, however, most of whom are GPs, the supply fell from 101 to 97 FTE per 100,000 population over the same 2002-2006 period.

The number of primary care practitioners rose, but not enough to compensate for the reduction in average working hours in the profession.

David Braddock, Head of the Institute's Labour Force Unit, said that over 93% of the estimated 62,500 medical practitioners working in Australia in 2006 were clinicians, that is, providing patient care. Others worked in areas such as administration, research and teaching.

About 40% of clinicians were primary care practitioners, with another 35% being specialists.

'The remainder were specialists-in-training, hospital non-specialists and other types of clinicians', Braddock said.

'Notably, the supply of specialists in training rose between 2002 and 2006, from 31 to 41 FTE per 100,000 population.'

Major cities (at 332 FTE per 100,000) had the largest supply of medical practitioners, followed by inner regional areas (at 184) and outer regional areas at 154 FTE.
In contrast, the variation in supply of primary care practitioners was smaller across major cities, and inner and outer regional areas at 98, 87 and 86 FTE respectively.

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