Shape of allied health: an environmental scan of 27 allied health professions in Victoria

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Nancarrow, SA, Young, G, O'Callaghan, K, Jenkins, M, Philip, K & Barlow, K 2017, 'Shape of allied health: an environmental scan of 27 allied health professions in Victoria', Australian Health Review, vol. 41, pp. 327-335.

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Objective: In 2015, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services commissioned the Victorian Allied Health Workforce Research Program to provide data on allied health professions in the Victorian public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Herein we present a snapshot of the demographic profiles and distribution of these professions in Victoria and discuss the workforce implications.
Methods: The program commenced with an environmental scan of 27 allied health professions in Victoria. This substantial scoping exercise identified existing data, resources and contexts for each profession to guide future data collection and research. Each environmental scan reviewed existing data relating to the 27 professions, augmented by an online questionnaire sent to the professional bodies representing each discipline.
Results: Workforce data were patchy but, based on the evidence available, the allied health professions in Victoria vary greatly in size (ranging from just 17 child life therapists to 6288 psychologists), are predominantly female (83% of professions are more than 50% female) and half the professions report that 30% of their workforce is aged under 30 years. New training programs have increased workforce inflows to many professions, but there is little understanding of attrition rates. Professions reported a lack of senior positions in the public sector and a concomitant lack of senior specialised staff available to support more junior staff. Increasing numbers of allied health graduates are being employed directly in private practice because of a lack of growth in new positions in the public sector and changing funding models. Smaller professions reported that their members are more likely to be professionally isolated within an allied health team or larger organisations. Uneven rural–urban workforce distribution was evident across most professions.
Conclusions: Workforce planning for allied health is extremely complex because of the lack of data, fragmented funding and regulatory frameworks and diverse employment contexts.

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