health workforce

NCPHN provides support and works collaboratively with primary health care professionals to deliver quality primary health care on the North Coast.


NCPHN implements initiatives to build the capacity of the primary health care workforce including:

Professional Development Scholarships

NPCHN offers scholarships in selected priority areas to build the capacity of North Coast primary health care professionals to delivery quality health care.
Scholarships include:

District of Workforce Shortage and Area of Need

A District of Workforce Shortage (DSW) is a geographic area where the population’s need for healthcare has not been met.

Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act) restricts overseas trained doctors (OTDs) and Foreign Graduates of Accredited Medical Schools (FGAMS) from accessing the Medicare benefits arrangements unless they choose to practice in a DWS for their medical speciality in order to access the Medicare benefits arrangements.

All OTDs and FGAMS who first started working as a doctor in Australia after 1996 are subject to section 19AB of the Act.DWS areas are determined by the Australian Government Department of Health using Australian Bureau of Statistics population data and Medicare billing data. To check if a location is a DWS, ‘Search the Map’ on the DoctorConnect website.

Area of Need is determined by the NSW Department of Health.

It assists employers who are experiencing difficulty recruiting medical practitioners with specialist registration. It allows the recruitment of suitably qualified International Medical Graduates to vacant positions approved as an Area of Need.

An Area of Need only applies to the particular position for which it was granted: it does not apply to a specific geographic area.

North Coast Primary Health Care Workforce Project (2017-2018)

A skilled and capable primary health care workforce is vital to ensuring a healthy community.

In 2017-18, NCPHN implemented the North Coast Primary Health Care Workforce Project. The Project aimed to better understand the North Coast primary health care workforce.

The Project investigated:

  • Trends, challenges and opportunities that impact workforce planning in the region.
  • The steps required to ensure closer alignment between population health care needs and workforce availability.

The Project was overseen by a Steering Committee of primary health care clinicians, academics and workforce planning representatives.

North Coast Primary Health Care Workforce Profile

The Workforce Project delivered on its objectives and developed the first known North Coast Primary Health Care Workforce Profile.

This profile reveals an estimated 6,200 primary health care professionals working in non-government services across 22 professions and 46 occupation titles.

The Project found strong local knowledge of: 

  • General practitioners (GPs)
  • Practice nurses
  • Occupational therapists
  • Orthotists
  • Pharmacists
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychologists 

The Project identified local and national knowledge gaps for: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers and practitioners
  • Counsellors
  • Mental health nurses
  • Nurses working in residential aged care facilities
  • Optometrists
  • Oral health professionals
  • Social workers

The Project found no single point of information for primary health care workforce data for all disciplines either nationally or locally. This limited the Project’s ability to determine precise numbers, locations, qualifications, skill sets and services offered by the primary health care workforce, and how these were changing over time.

Primary Health Care Workforce Planning Framework

The Workforce project recommended implementing the Primary Health Care Workforce Planning Framework. This could serve as a building block for a comprehensive North Coast primary health care workforce strategy, ensuring a collaborative and reflective approach to primary health care workforce planning in the future.

The Summary Report contains further recommendations.

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