Evaluation of the Better Access initiative component C: analysis of the allied mental health workforce supply and distribution

2. Characteristics of the actual and potential Better Access workforce

Page last updated: September 2010

The Better Access workforce is comprised of those members of the Better Access allied and medical mental health workforces who meet their professional requirements to practice, but may or may not have provided Better Access services. The potential Better Access workforce relates to this broader pool of health professionals, encapsulating both those who are registered with Medicare and those who could (after meeting specified requirements) register with Medicare to provide Better Access services. A subset of the potential Better Access workforce is the actual providers of services: these are the actual Better Access workforce.

This chapter collates information about the characteristics of the potential and actual Better Access workforce from a range of sources. The analysis differentiates between service providers who have utilised Better Access - the actual workforce – and those who are in the broader occupational categories - the potential workforce – to examine whether there are any differences in the characteristics between the two. In addition, we examine whether characteristics differ across occupational categories.

The chapter provides a comprehensive breakdown of the characteristics of the six occupational groups, by:

  • Providing a brief introduction to the characteristics of each occupational category prior to the introduction of Better Access;

  • Estimating the actual and potential Better Access workforce numbers in each occupational category, using a range of sources (see table 2.1 below);

  • Using the ABS Census (2006) and the Better Access MBS data to analyse the demographic, geographic and labour market characteristics of both the actual and potential Better Access workforce in each occupational category, including age, gender, country of birth, citizenship status, geographical distribution (state/territory and metropolitan/rural), sector of employment (public/private), and use of Better Access.

  • Comparing selected characteristics across occupational categories.
As discussed in Chapter 1, defining the potential Better Access workforce is a complicated issue and one that is not fully resolved in this report. In general, the potential workforce is considered to be the pool of GPs, psychiatrists, paediatricians, psychologists, social workers and OTs participating in the Australian labour force. However, due to differences in the collection and standardisation between the various data sets used, estimation of the potential workforce is nuanced. That is, the boundary between who should be included in this category is somewhat arbitrary: for example, consideration of the potential workforce could be extended to include GPs, psychiatrists, paediatricians, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists registered with Medicare (or their relevant registration body), but either employed in another occupation (not practising) or not engaged in the Australian labour force at all (retired, on leave, or overseas). This issue is considered in detail in the estimation of the workforce numbers, for each occupational category.
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In an effort to produce the best estimate of numbers in the potential Better Access workforce we have used several data sources, primarily the MBS and Medicare Service Provider data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2006 Census of Population and Housing, and the state/territories registration board and professional association administrative data. Table 2.1 summarises the characteristics reported upon from each data source.

Table 2.1 Sources of data on workforce characteristics

Workforce characteristicsABSMBSState/Territory administrative data
Size of workforce
Used
Used
Used
Age
Used
Used
Not used
Gender
Used
Used
Not used
Country of birth
Used
Not used
Not used
Citizenship status
Used
Not used
Not used
Geographical distribution - state/territory
Used
Used
Not used
Geographical distribution - metro/rural/remote
Used
Used
Not used
Public/private
Used
Used for private
Not used
Use of Better Access
Not used
Used
Not used

Notes: State/territory Registration Board data only applies to psychologists (clinical and registered) and occupational therapists. Psychologist registration board data is not available for the NT. The occupational therapist registration board data is not available for NSW, VIC, TAS, the ACT or the NT. For social workers, the membership data for the Australian Association of Social Workers was used.