The what and where of workforce gaps: perspectives from rural/remote QLD practitioners and managers

Mr David Wellman1, Ms Sarah Venn1, Mr Dean Selby1

1Health Workforce Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


Aims:There are currently no acknowledged yardsticks to measure whether rural communities have sufficient primary care workforce or the right balance of disciplines. Most gap analyses use population health data and workforce numbers. The aim of this study was to investigate primary care provider/manager perceptions of local allied health workforce gaps across rural and remote Qld as part of a larger health workforce needs assessment.

Method:An online survey was completed by 495 practitioners and managers in QLD from ASGC Remoteness Areas (RA) 2-5. There were 10 statements: ‘There is a serious gap in the XXX workforce in my community’. Ten allied health disciplines were investigated and participants asked to rate their level of agreement (‘0 = Strongly disagree’, to ‘100 = Strongly agree’).

Results:Mean workforce gap agreement ratings overall ranged from Optometry M = 30.45, to Social work M = 50.27. Workforce gap means tended to increase with remoteness. The largest increase was for Audiology (RA2 M = 31.50; RA5 M = 69.30). Social work had the highest workforce gap mean in RA2 (M = 49.68) and RA3 (M = 48.30), psychology the highest in RA4 (M = 65.00) and RA5 (M = 71.33). Regional differences were found.

Discussion:This was one of the first studies to gauge health practitioner and manager perspectives concerning what allied health workforce discipline gaps existed within their community. The study provided unique insights into the relationship between remoteness, location and perceptions of practitioners/managers regarding local allied health workforce gaps.


David has been actively involved in public health research since 2001 and has authorship of papers covering a wide variety of community health topics from improving community health and wellbeing in a low SES area to sexuality for people with dementia. Much of the David’s research output has a focus on psychosocial aspects of care for people living in the community. Since joining Health Workforce Queensland, in 2014, the main focus of his output has been on investigating recruitment and retention of health workforce professionals to remote and rural locations. David also seeks to identify emerging issues impacting the primary health care workforce in rural and remote Qld communities.