Data source and key concepts

National Health Workforce Data Set (NHWDS)

The voluntary Workforce Surveys are administered to all registered health practitioners by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and are included as part of the registration renewal process. These surveys are used to provide nationally consistent workforce estimates. They provide data not readily available from other sources, such as the type of work done by, and job setting of, health practitioners; the number of hours worked in a clinical or non-clinical role, and in total; and the numbers of years worked in, and intended to remain in, the health workforce. The surveys also provide information on registered health practitioners who are not undertaking clinical work or who are not employed. Response rates for the NHWDS workforce surveys are generally high, although it will vary by profession. An imputation process is employed to correct for non-response which creates a complete dataset that can be used for workforce analysis and planning. Imputation replaces missing values with plausible values based on other available information. The information from the AHPRA workforce surveys, combined with AHPRA registration data items, comprise the NHWDS.

Health workforce data is available for public access through the Australian Government Department of Health’s Health Workforce Data Tool (HWDT) and the numbers in this publication reflect those extracted using the HWDT as at 4 May 2022. For medical specialists, the numbers are those employed, as specialists, in their primary specialty. As such, there may be differences between the data presented here and that published elsewhere due to different calculation or estimation methodologies or data extraction dates. The HWDT uses a statistical randomisation technique to confidentialise small numbers. This can result in differences between the column sum and total and small variations in numbers from one data extract to another.

Further information regarding the health workforce surveys is available at National Health Workforce Data set.

Mental Health Establishments National Minimum Data Set (MHE NMDS)

Collection of data for the Mental Health Establishments (MHE) NMDS began on 1 July 2005, replacing the Community Mental Health Establishments NMDS and the National Survey of Mental Health Services. The main aim of the development of the MHE NMDS was to expand on the Community Mental Health Establishments NMDS and replicate the data previously collected by the National Survey of Mental Health Services. The National Mental Health Establishments Database is compiled as specified by the MHE NMDS.

The scope of the MHE NMDS includes all specialised mental health services managed or funded, partially or fully, by state or territory health authorities. Specialised mental health services are those with the primary function of providing treatment, rehabilitation or community health support targeted towards people with a mental disorder or psychiatric disability. These activities are delivered from a service or facility that is readily identifiable as both specialised and serving a mental health care function.

The MHE NMDS data are provided at a number of levels: state, regional, organisational and individual mental health service unit. The data elements at each level in the NMDS collect information appropriate to that level. The state, regional and organisational levels include data elements for revenue, grants to non-government organisations and indirect expenditure. The organisational level also includes data elements for salary and non-salary expenditure, numbers of full-time-equivalent staff and consumer and carer worker participation arrangements. The individual mental health service unit level comprises data elements that describe the function of the unit. Where applicable, these include target population, program type, number of beds, number of accrued patient days, number of separations, and number of service contacts and episodes of residential care. In addition, the service unit level also includes salary and non-salary expenditure and depreciation.

Data Quality Statements for National Minimum Data Sets are published annually on the Metadata Online Registry (METEOR). Statements provide information on the institutional environment, timelines, accessibility, interpretability, relevance, accuracy and coherence.

Key concepts

Key concept Description
Area of practice endorsement To qualify for an area of practice endorsement, a psychologist must have completed advanced training (a Masters or Doctorate qualification) in the particular area of practice followed by a period of supervised practice. There are nine endorsements, including clinical psychology and forensic psychology (APS 2022).
Clinical FTE Clinical FTE measures the number of standard-hour workloads worked by employed health professionals in a direct clinical role. Clinical FTE is calculated by the number of health professionals in a category multiplied by the average clinical hours worked by those employed in the category divided by the standard working week hours. The NHWDS considers a standard working week to be 38 hours for nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists and 40 hours for psychiatrists.
Clinical hours Clinical hours are the total clinical hours worked per week in the profession, including paid and unpaid work. The average weekly clinical hours is the average of the clinical hours reported by all employed professionals, not only those who define their principal area of work as clinician. Average clinical weekly hours are calculated only for those people who reported their clinical hours (those who did not report them are excluded). 
Employed

In this report, an employed health professional is defined as one who:

  • worked for a total of 1 hour or more, principally in the relevant profession, for pay, commission, payment in kind or profit; mainly or only in a particular state or territory during a specified period, or
  • usually worked but was away on leave (with some pay) for less than 3 months, on strike or locked out, or rostered off.

This includes those involved in clinical and non-clinical roles, for example education, research, and administration. ‘Employed’ people are referred to as the ‘workforce’. This excludes those medical practitioners practising psychiatry as a second or third speciality, those who were on extended leave for 3 months or more and those who were not employed.

Full-time equivalent Full-time equivalent (FTE) measures the number of standard-hour workloads worked by employed health professionals. FTE is calculated by the number of health professionals in a category multiplied by the average hours worked by those employed in the category divided by the standard working week hours. In this report, a standard working week for nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists is assumed to be 38 hours and equivalent to 1 FTE. Like other medical practitioners, FTE measures for psychiatrists are based on a 40 hour standard working week.
Nurse

To qualify for registration as a registered or enrolled nurse in Australia, an individual must have completed an approved program of study (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia 2019). The usual minimum educational requirement for a registered nurse is a 3 year degree or equivalent. For enrolled nurses the usual minimum educational requirement is a 1 year diploma or equivalent.

For the purpose of this section, a mental health nurse is an enrolled or registered nurse that indicates their principal area of work is mental health. In other contexts, mental health nurse may refer to a nurse who has a specific qualification in mental health care instead of or as well as generalist care. Refer to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia for more information.

Occupational therapist

Occupational therapists provide support to people whose health or disability impacts on their day-to-day life and function. For the purpose of this section, a mental health occupational therapist is an occupational therapist who has indicated they have a scope of practice of ‘mental health’.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner who has completed specialist training in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and emotional problems. Treatment may include prescribing medication, brain stimulation therapies and psychological treatment (RANZCP 2021b). To practice as a psychiatrist in Australia, an individual must be admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). Psychiatrists first train as a medical doctor, then undertake a medical internship followed by a minimum of 5 years specialist training in psychiatry (RANZCP 2020).

Psychologist

A psychologist is an allied health practitioner who is trained in human behaviour. They may provide diagnosis, assessment and treatment of mental illness through psychological interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. The education and training requirement for general (full) registration as a psychologist is a 6 year sequence comprising a 4 year accredited sequence of study followed by an approved 2 year supervised practice program. The 2 year supervised practice program may be comprised of either an approved 2 year postgraduate qualification, a fifth year of study followed by a 1 year internship program or a 2 year internship program (Psychology Board of Australia 2021b).

Total hours

Total hours are the total hours worked per week in the profession, including paid and unpaid work. Average total weekly hours are calculated only for those people who reported their hours (that is, those who did not report them are excluded).