RDN workforce data is recognised in the health sector for its high quality, integrity, relevance, and longevity. In 2020, all workforce surveys are being delivered via a secure online survey platform.
The data obtained from GPs and Practice Managers via RDN surveys has proven invaluable. It has, amongst many things, helped inform recruitment and retention strategies and has been vital in publishing the NSW and Australian Minimum Data Set Report (MDS) and RDN’s annual Health Workforce Needs Assessment (HWNA).
Why complete the surveys?
The surveys are the primary tool to capture data about what is happening in rural health across NSW. For RDN to accurately represent the needs of the rural health workforce to government, it needs to know what affects health practitioners. The data collected assists RDN to identify areas of support and funding needed for communities in terms of:
- specialist and allied health Outreach services
- GP support needs in the management of patients with chronic non-cancer pain
- priority CPD and training needs for the rural GP workforce
- workforce strategies and policies that improve access to primary care and workforce sustainability.
What happens to the data?
Data collected through the GP and Practice Manager surveys forms the evidence base of the HWNA. Together with Outreach program activity data and in-depth interviews with health professionals from medical, allied health, nursing and midwifery disciplines working in rural NSW, the HWNA aggregates evidence themed around primary health care workforce access, quality and sustainability; and identifies issues and trends for these priority areas.
The HWNA findings are submitted in full to the Department of Health each February. Summary reports are also produced. The HWNA Report 2018-19 focuses on GP access to allied health services and the workforce needs of allied health professionals working in the rural primary health care context. The HWNA Report 2017-18 focuses on the health workforce needs of General Practitioners.
How do the survey and the HWNA benefit the rural health workforce?
The evidence collected from the HWNA has informed nine important actions initiated by RDN with our regional collaborators:
1. Development of six regional GP workforce plans complemented by high-priority town-based GP succession planning activities (active in five areas).
2. Providing focus for $3 million in annual Health Workforce Scholarship Program (HWSP) funds into the critical training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) areas identified by GPs and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs). Significant areas of investment were chronic disease management, mental health, cultural awareness and business and practice management.
3. Informed RDN’s investment in clinician self-care initiatives such as RDN’s web resource #RuralHealthTogether www.ruralhealthtogether.info
4. Establishment of RDN’s future GP leadership program and RDN’s Early Rural Medical Career Advisory Group.
5. Highlighted and enabled action on critical areas of need specific to regions such as the Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) and proceduralist workforce, strategies for the International Medical Graduate (IMG) workforce and enhancing targeted locum placements.
6. Creation of the Statewide Training Calendar – aggregation of local and state-based training events.
7. Highlighted the importance of supporting the capability of health administrators to create and manage efficient and collaborative working environments. RDN resourced and supported 22 Practice Managers across NSW to complete a Diploma of Practice Leadership and Practice Manager webinar series. RDN is currently in partnership to deliver upskilling for practice administration staff in three communities in 2019-20 following a successful pilot in Coffs Harbour.
8. Focus on future workforce activity and supporting students and junior doctors with rural intent to experience quality rural immersions, given the ageing rural GP workforce and the need for succession planning.
9. Informed RDN’s evidence-based response to the Rural Health Commissioner’s request for feedback on options to attract and retain allied health professionals to rural areas.
RDN looks forward to the continued support of our annual surveys in 2020, which will continue to make a positive difference to primary health care in rural NSW.