Health workforce challenges and opportunities

by Stephen Duckett

The roles played by health professionals, from doctors to nurses to pharmacists and beyond, should be reassessed to ensure patients are getting the best care and taxpayers are getting the best value. In this presentation to a Sustainable Health Review workforce roundtable in Perth, Grattan Institute’s Health Program Director Stephen Duckett shows that hospital specialists believe they often do tasks that could be done for less cost by someone less qualified, without reducing the quality of care. For example, much of the work of physiotherapists could be done by physiotherapy assistants, some of the work done by specialists could be done by physician assistants, and some tasks now performed by enrolled nurses could be done by cleaners. Barriers to workforce reform include professional culture, tradition, registration restrictions, and industrial relations.