This commitment to developing a plan is the key result of a medical workforce workshop convened by the Director-General of Health late in 2018 with representatives from DHBs, DHB National CMOs, Medical Council of NZ, NZ Medical Association, Royal NZ College of GPS, Specialist Trainees of NZ and the Ministry of Health. The discussions were intended to directly inform the work of the Ministry as it assumes a more prominent national leadership role in health workforce strategy, planning, commissioning and monitoring.
Overall, three key themes arose from the discussions.
- Workforce wellbeing was the dominant theme, focusing on immediate issues but also looking broadly at the general wellbeing of the health workforce.
- Directly linked to the wellbeing discussion is the specific priority issue of fatigue and its impact on the medical workforce.
- A wider range of strategic issues for the medical workforce both now and in the future, including diversity, training, staffing in rural and provincial settings, and the impact of technology.
‘While we expected to discuss the immediate issues facing the medical workforce and the long-term strategic issues, the clear focus on wider workforce wellbeing was not a topic we expected to come out so strongly and consistently from all parties involved,’ said Director General of the Ministry of Health, Ashley Bloomfield.
‘Participants agreed that a strong focus on ensuring the wellbeing of the medical workforce – and other health workforce groups – would ultimately benefit patient care, the sustainability of the health workforce and the whole health system.
‘In terms of next steps, we will be pursuing the issue of fatigue with a range of relevant groups to better understand the drivers and possible solutions to address the problem. Fatigue among health workers reflects the fact that demand for health services, which are provided 24/7, continues to increase and people are more likely to have complex conditions. We are particularly interested in identifying system-level responses that will benefit both staff delivering services and improve patient safety.
‘On the wider topic of workforce wellbeing, we know there is work that has already been done or is underway, and we will be engaging with the sector to progress this and develop tangible actions.
‘The outcome of discussions on the more strategic issues will flow directly into the Ministry’s health workforce work programme. These are substantive issues that need all relevant parties to be engaged and we look forward to progressing this work to ensure we have the future medical workforce that our public health system needs to continue to deliver excellent care to New Zealanders.’
The workshop and the work arising from it are separate to employment negotiations between DHBs and medical workforce unions about pay and conditions.