Demonstrating a new approach to planning and monitoring rural medical training distribution to meet population need in North West Queensland

Matthew R McGrail, Deborah J Russell, Belinda G O’Sullivan, Carole Reeve, Lee Gasser, David Campbell

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    Background: Improving the health of rural populations requires developing a medical workforce with the right skills and a willingness to work in rural areas. A novel strategy for achieving this aim is to align medical training distribution with community need. This research describes an approach for planning and monitoring the distribution of general practice (GP) training posts to meet health needs across a dispersed geographic catchment. Methods: An assessment of the location of GP registrars in a large catchment of rural North West Queensland (across 11 sub-regions) in 2017 was made using national workforce supply, rurality and other indicators. These included (1): Index of Access -spatial accessibility (2); 10-year District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) (3); MMM (Modified Monash Model) rurality (4); SEIFA (Socio-Economic Indicator For Areas) (5); Indigenous population and (6) Population size. Distribution was determined relative to GP workforce supply measures and population health needs in each health sub-region of the catchment. An expert panel verified the approach and reliability of findings and discussed the results to inform planning. Results: 378 registrars and 582 supervisors were well-distributed in two sub-regions; in contrast the distribution was below expected levels in three others. Almost a quarter of registrars (24%) were located in the poorest access areas (Index of Access) compared with 15% of the population located in these areas. Relative to the population size, registrars were proportionally over-represented in the most rural towns, those consistently rated as DWS or those with the poorest SEIFA value and highest Indigenous proportion. Conclusions: Current regional distribution was good, but individual town-level data further enabled the training provider to discuss the nuance of where and why more registrars (or supervisors) may be needed. The approach described enables distributed workforce planning and monitoring applicable in a range of contexts, with increased sensitivity for registrar distribution planning where most needed, supporting useful discussions about the potential causes and solutions. This evidence-based approach also enables training organisations to engage with local communities, health services and government to address the sustainable development of the long-term GP workforce in these towns.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number993
    Number of pages9
    JournalBMC Health Services Research
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2018

    Bibliographical note

    This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


    • Access
    • Decision making
    • GP training
    • Health care equity
    • Primary care
    • Remote communities
    • Rural health
    • Workforce planning


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