Anaesthesia workforce numbers

24 June 2024

To address workforce shortages, particularly in rural areas, the Australian government has recommended the implementation of an expedited registration pathway for specialist international medical graduates (SIMGs).

The Independent Review of Overseas Health Practitioner Regulatory Settings (“the Kruk report”) notes an undersupply of anaesthesia services in four of Australia’s largest states – NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. 

The expedited pathway being developed by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) bypasses existing medical college assessment processes (for agreed qualifications). Anaesthesia, along with general practice, obstetrics and gynaecology and psychiatry have been identified as priorities for implementation of an expedited pathway by the end of 2024 and other medical specialities to follow from next year.

ANZCA is working closely with the government on this issue with patient safety as its central priority. The college has developed proposed and provided recommendations for an expedited pathway for SIMGs in countries whose training is substantially comparable to ANZCA’s as a solution, noting that our SIMG assessment process conforms to the MBA’s good practice guidelines and is regularly reviewed for consistency with regulatory changes.

It should also be noted that training numbers for specialist anaesthetists in Australia are limited by state and territory health service allocations of registrar positions within anaesthesia training departments, with these processes varying in each jurisdiction. The college has no direct influence over trainee numbers. 

ANZCA acknowledges that internationally qualified health practitioners play a vital role in our health system, filling critical vacancies in the short term, but there has been too much of a reliance on recruiting SIMGs to address workforce shortages, particularly in regional and rural settings. Travel restrictions related to the pandemic and immigration laws have demonstrated there is significant risk with this reliance. 

The college considers initiatives to increase SIMG numbers is a short-term solution and would like to work with governments to increase local trainee numbers as a longer-term or large-scale strategy for specialist staffing recruitment.

The college will continue to take a proactive and engaged role advocating for fellows, trainees, SIMGs and the anaesthesia community in general, seeking to influence and inform decision makers as well as keeping college members informed of any agreed changes. For any queries contact the ANZCA Policy Team

Last updated 14:30 24.06.2024