Indicator 34: Specially trained physicians

Indicator 34: Number and proportion of physicians with specialised training in geriatric care or health care of older persons.
Indicator is fully reported? No
Type of indicator Instrumental indicator Instrumental indicator
Other relevant indicators Nil
Our findings

In 2012, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians had 72 New Zealand fellows who had completed specialist training in geriatric medicine. This represented 4.8% of the total NZ membership. The College does not keep trend data about changes in the numbers of fellows with specialist training in geriatric medicine so we do not know whether the number of fellows has increased or decreased during the last 10 years.

Data for this indicator is not held by the Ministry of Health (the Ministry), Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ), or the Medical Council of New Zealand. We consider that this data should be held.

Adequacy of the healthcare workforce to care for older people

In December 2004, the Ministry published a report called Ageing New Zealand and Health and Disability Services 2001-2021: Background Information International Responses to Ageing Populations.[1]

The major issues identified in the report were a need for more practitioners, more specialist services (such as surgery, intensivists, pulmonary physicians, and laboratory staff), more expertise in older people’s health, and more support services.

A companion report stated that, in common with other countries, New Zealand was experiencing difficulties in recruiting and retraining specialists in geriatric care and that concern had been expressed that existing training programmes were not developing the correct skills needed to care for older people.[2] Geriatric medicine and the long-term care of older people with major disabilities were not popular specialties for medical professionals and were not prominent in medical training.[3]

The report noted that the country was already experiencing difficulties in recruiting medical practitioners and training specialists in geriatric care, and if training programmes did not develop the skills needed to care for older people, then the health workforce would be likely to face increased strain in delivering care as our population ages.[4]

Health Workforce New Zealand

HWNZ was set up in late 2009 to provide national leadership on developing the country's health and disability workforce. HWNZ’s work programme is overseen by an independent Board appointed by the Minister of Health. The HWNZ business unit is part of the National Health Board Business Unit within the Ministry. It has produced annual work plans since 2010/11.[5]

HWNZ is responsible for providing oversight for planning the healthcare workforce. It is to ensure that this aligns with planning for the delivery of services and that the healthcare workforce is fit for purpose.[6]

HWNZ has the following information available for planning future demand:

  • the number of medical practitioners  registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand;
  • the number of medical practitioners actively practising medicine;
  • the number of medical practitioners  qualified in each specialty;
  • the retention rate of medical practitioners with annual practising certificates in each specialty; and
  • the number of medical practitioners in training to become specialists.

HWNZ is actively working with other agencies to establish an "intelligence platform" for:

  • the types of services that medical practitioners are working in;
  • the facilities where medical practitioners are located and the number of hours they work; and
  • the number of medical practitioners  qualified in each sub-specialty.

Similar information on nurses could become more important as more nurses take up a wider range of roles, such as becoming nurse practitioners. It may also be important to have similar information about other health care professionals.

Please read our report on indicator 35, which is about the number and proportion of primary health workers with geriatric training.

Entity responsible for this indicator

Ministry of Health (Health Workforce New Zealand)


[2] Ministry of Health (2004), Impact of population ageing in New Zealand on the demand for health and disability support services, and workforce implications: Background Paper prepared for the Ministry of Health, page 60,

[3] Page 61 of the report (see footnote 2).

[4] Page 79 of the report (see footnote 2).

[5] It has not produced annual reports because it is not a standalone public entity.