Following up on our “2020 Ultimate Guide to GP jobs”, here is some recent information about how healthcare sector employment is looking in 2021 and beyond with updated jobs prospects.
Back in late 2019, we outlined the findings of a major report by Deloitte – the General Practitioner Workforce Report – and put together our ultimate guide to GP jobs in 2020 in Australia.
Within the report, we identified a range of factors Deloitte envisioned would impact the employment of General Practitioners in Australia for the decade ahead until 2030.
And then, as we all know too well, just a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic began taking its toll on both Australia and the rest of the world in a way those who put together the Deloitte report might ever have envisaged.
Since then, Australia has weathered the COVID storm better than many other nations. This comes from our own efforts to curb transmission but also comes thanks to an agile healthcare workforce and the remarkable GPs who have gone above and beyond to care for Australians during the pandemic.
While various aspects of what we wrote in our guide still have relevance, fast-forward eighteen months and some of the detail has changed.
Healthcare jobs trends in 2021
Employment level projections for the healthcare and social assistance sectors before COVID were on a solid upward trajectory. This was mostly due to an ageing population, expanding NDIS and focus on mental health and aged care, resulting in budgetary boosts from both State and Federal governments.
By Australian Industry and Skills Committee – Health Industries Overview
Data from early 2021 paints an interesting picture that seems to indicate COVID has not significantly altered the upward trend Deloitte saw back in 2019. As of February 2021, employment data showed that over 1.8 million people were employed in the healthcare and social assistance sector, accounting for nearly 14% of the total workforce. This means that since the middle of the last decade, employment in the sector has increased by 19%.
Projected employment growth through 2025 looks set to increase by another 250,000 workers, representing a 14% increase, and it’s possible this could be even greater given 2021 Federal budget spending measures around the NDIS and aged care.
The COVID factor: Telehealth and tech
COVID put many GPs and other healthcare professionals under immense strain to manage both containing the pandemic and keeping general health services operating under markedly changed operational conditions.
However, swift action by the Federal government meant many GPs and other healthcare professionals remained able to offer their services, albeit not in a BAU way.
Due to this, it might be surmised that COVID may have slightly dampened employment projections for the main pandemic year but will end up being more a blip in the upward trajectory rather than majorly altering how the workforce will grow.
Back in 2019, many GPs noted increases in presentations around chronic disease management, pointing towards a future need for more GPs in the workforce to handle this. However, these presentations dropped off during COVID, as did presentations for general screenings, notably mammograms, and at emergency wards for injuries. Non-urgent elective surgery levels in hospitals also fell.
Replacing these was a marked uptick in increased use of mental health services and a massive expansion of telehealth after its emergency (now looking like permanent) addition to the MBS.
This new emphasis on telehealth and the challenges of COVID more broadly offered great insight into how technology will continue to insert itself more and more into the healthcare workforce. This means that going forward, GPs and other healthcare professionals with tech skills or the desire to augment their existing skill sets by embracing the use of medical tech will be in prime position to move into future healthcare jobs.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
Rural jobs: Time for a tree change?
The other key area GPs are likely to see ongoing employment opportunity growth is connected to the rural doctor shortage.
The ongoing issue of not being able to get GPs into rural settings was in the past offset by new permanent residents to Australia taking up roles outside of urban centres as part of their residency requirements. However, border closures have reduced this inflow of potential rural practitioners.
To help alleviate this and the long-term structural issues of encouraging GPs into rural practice, in March 2021, the Federal government announced a $50m package to get 400 GPs to train and work in regional Australia over the next four years.
Not only will this hopefully alleviate some issues around gaps in rural healthcare roles, but it also presents as a great opportunity for junior GPs who are looking for their first role out of medical school or more experienced GPs wanting a tree change.
It could also be part of a wider, more sustained trend that will see more roles in rural regions. Businesses that pivoted to work remotely during COVID may see the benefit of allowing more employees to live and work outside major urban centres, leading to a continued decentralisation of the workforce, growing rural hubs and an accompanying need for GPs and healthcare professionals in rural settings.
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