Distribution Priority Area update may bring GP recruitment opportunities for some general practices

A stethoscope pictured on top of a map of Australia.
  16 August 2022  NWMPHN   

The Australian Government recently announced its update of the Distribution Priority Area (DPA) classification system.

What is the DPA system?

DPA classification identifies locations with a shortage of medical practitioners. General practices in these areas can source general practitioners from a larger pool of applicants than that available in non-DPA regions. Most notably, they can recruit overseas-trained doctors who are subject to Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973, which requires them to work in DPAs for at least 10 years.

DPA classification takes into account Medicare billings by gender and age, and the socio-economic status of patients living in a given area. It also uses the Modified Monash Model (MM 1-7) geographical classification system to assess remoteness.

All major metropolitan areas in Australia are classed as MM 1. Rural, remote and very remote locations are ranked as MM 2 to MM 7.

DPA classifications are reviewed every 12 months and updates usually provided on 1 July. The 2022 update was delayed until 21 July due to the recent change of government.

What has changed?

There were 2 major changes to the DPA classification system in 2022:

  1. In January, all MM 3 and MM 4 areas were automatically classified as DPAs, joining previously classified MM 5, MM 6 and MM 7 areas.
  2. In July, all MM 2 areas were added to the list.

In addition:

  • all catchments classified as DPAs through an exceptional circumstances review in 2021-22 had classification extended for 12 months, until 30 June 2023;
  • some additional catchments in MM 1 outer metropolitan areas were also identified as DPAs.

Which catchments in the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network region are affected by the changes?

MM 1 inner metropolitan areas are automatically classified as non-DPA, so the only areas which can change DPA status from year to year are outer metropolitan. These are also the only areas in which practices can apply for an Exceptional Circumstances Review for DPA.

In the NWMPHN region:

  • Romsey is now a DPA
  • parts of Bacchus Marsh-Melton, Hobsons Bay, Sunbury and Wyndham are now DPAs
  • Gisborne and parts of Brimbank remain DPAs.

Refer to the Health Workforce Locator to check your exact location, or refer to the full list of catchment classifications.

NWMPHN welcomes these changes, which may provide GP recruitment opportunities for practices in parts of the region. However, we recognise that recruiting workforce is one of many issues – albeit a big one – and we continue to advocate for system-wide solutions.

Primary health network representation on the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce is a key part of this advocacy. We encourage you to read our article on croakey.org for an update on our roadmap for reform.