AHPRA releases updated workforce registration data

December 20, 2022

As workforce shortages across the health sector intensify, the number of overseas-trained healthcare workers arriving to work in Australia is trending upwards towards pre-pandemic levels, according to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Annual international registration data published by the agency today shows there has been a 41 percent increase in registrations of internationally trained medical doctors (totalling 2,985). Nursing and midwifery registrations saw a significant increase of 35 percent; however, these numbers fell short of pre-pandemic levels (4,629 in 2021-22 as compared to 5,753 in 2018-19).

AHPRA has made considerable efforts to streamline the registration process for internationally trained professionals. The data release coincided an announcement that AHPRA will fast-track the healthcare system’s integration of overseas-trained workers by reducing the period it safely assesses international health practitioner applications from four weeks to seven days. As part of the initiative, AHPRA has launched a new information hub to enhance the application process.

Meanwhile, the latest AHPRA figures show that, in addition to international arrivals, 42,056 graduates were registered as practitioners across all professions in 2021-22; this marks an increase of 13 percent on those recorded in the years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic.

In April 2022, we called for a comprehensive state workforce plan that included the Commonwealth creating a specific healthcare worker visa to attract more qualified workers from overseas while we build up our domestic workforce over time. The Victorian Government’s Skills Plan (published in August 2022) confirmed the state’s severe shortage of healthcare workers. This plan estimated that Victoria needed 65,000 new workers (including 6,500 nurses) to join the health and community care sector by 2025 to meet demand and replace people retiring.

The plan also highlighted that the number of workers leaving their jobs for a better one or for change was 45 per cent above pre-pandemic levels, that COVID-19 related absenteeism was likely to continue for the next 12-18 months, and that many students required to perform work placements to complete their training were disrupted by lockdowns and other restrictions, potentially slowing their entrance to the workforce. In response, the VHA called on the government to consider a large-scale recruitment campaign to attract more workers to public health and community health services, similar to its Teach the Future campaign.

In the lead up to the recent state election, we continued to our call for a system-wide approach to addressing workforce shortages. The VHA is hopeful that incentives to train new health workers and attract more graduates into public health services will build a more secure workforce; however, retaining our current health workers and attracting more qualified health workers from overseas to immediately address critical shortages needs to be a top priority.