A comparative study of allied health workforce issues in Australia and the UK

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Boyce, RA & Nancarrow, S 2005, 'A comparative study of allied health workforce issues in Australia and the UK', paper presented to the 4th Health Services & Policy Research Conference: Health Systems, Services and Strife, Canberra, ACT, 14-16 November.

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Background: Workforce planning and development typically proceeds at the level of government or its agencies. Recent shifts in workforce planning techniques are stressing a greater focus on integrated inter-professional or service-focused approaches together with attempts to critically appraise the types of roles and expertise needed for the workforce of the future (Davies 2003). Lack of knowledge about the allied health professions has been consistently identified as an impediment to progressing workforce reform in these professions (Boyce 2004). In this paper we outline the main issues identified by senior profession managers and clinicians. By comparing issues identified by professionals in both countries, we are able to evaluate the impacts of allied health policies on the allied health workforce in two different policy contexts.
Methods: This study involves a survey administered at a multidisciplinary allied health conference setting in the UK (n=38) and Australia (n=123) in which participants were asked to respond to a series of open questions about key issues and barriers to workforce change.
Results: Data is analysed independently for each country using thematic analysis on NVIVO software before being compared to assess the extent to which identified issues and barriers were rated of similar importance. Australian’s rated ‘professional tribes” and status and hierarchy highly as key issues. UK respondents rated explicit Department of Health policy initiatives and funding issues highly. Respondents from both countries highlighted several issues as shared concerns in allied health: recruitment and retention issues, changing roles, lack of involvement in policy development and a lack of research capacity. Conclusions: Despite differences in organisational, political and policy contexts a significant number of key issues and barriers to workforce management and change were identified as shared concerns.