What will make a difference? Assessing the impact of policy and non-policy scenarios on estimations of the future GP workforce

Caroline O.M. Laurence, Jonathan Karnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Health workforce planning is based on estimates of future needs for and supply of health care services. Given the pipeline time lag for the training of health professionals, inappropriate workforce planning or policies can lead to extended periods of over- or under-supply of health care providers. Often these policy interventions focus on one determinant of supply and do not incorporate other determinants such as changes in population health which impact the need for services. The aim of this study is to examine the effect of the implementation of various workforce policies on the estimated future requirements of the GP workforce, using South Australia as a case study. This is examined in terms of the impact on the workforce gap (excess or shortage), the cost of these workforce policies, and their role in addressing potential non-policy-related future scenarios.

Methods: An integrated simulation model for the general practice workforce in South Australia was developed, which determines the supply and level of services required based on the health of the population over a projection period 2013-2033. The published model is used to assess the effects of various policy and workforce scenarios. For each policy scenario, associated costs were estimated and compared to baseline costs with a 5% discount rate applied.

Results: The baseline scenario estimated an excess supply of GPs of 236 full-time equivalent (FTE) in 2013 but this surplus decreased to 28 FTE by 2033. The estimates based on single policy scenarios of role substitution and increased training positions continue the surplus, while a scenario that reduces the number of international medical graduates (IMGs) recruited estimated a move from surplus to shortage by 2033. The best-case outcome where the workforce achieves balance by 2023 and remains balanced to 2033, arose when GP participation rates (a non-policy scenario) were combined with the policy levers of increased GP training positions and reduced IMG recruitment. The cost of each policy varied, with increased role substitution and reduced IMG recruitment resulting in savings (AUD$752,946,586 and AUD$3,783,291 respectively) when compared to baseline costs. Increasing GP training costs over the projection period would cost the government an additional AUD$12,719,798.

Conclusions: Over the next 20 years, South Australia's GP workforce is predicted to remain fairly balanced. However, exogenous changes, such as increased demand for GP services may require policy intervention to address associated workforce shortfalls. The workforce model presented in this paper should be updated at regular intervals to inform the need for policy intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Resources for Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), 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 (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • General practice
  • Workforce
  • Simulation modelling
  • Cost


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