Ageing medics

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Ageing will boost demand for healthcare, but at a time when healthcare professionals are themselves ageing, how can that demand be met? Suppose a scenario with no growth in the demand for doctors in a country, and no migration either.
Then, the required training of new medics will be determined by the rate at which existing staff exit the profession, become inactive, or retire. If the average working life of a doctor is 30 years, with a constant retirement rate the required “replacement” rate of training will be 33 per 1,000 members (or 3.3% per year) of the existing workforce.

But some growth in demand for staff would boost that required training rate, indeed nearly doubling it to 63 per 1,000 in a case where sustained annual demand growth reached 3%. And as the baby-boom generation of physicians approaches retirement, the required replacement rate could rise even more sharply. However, medical graduation rates have been declining over the past 20 years, as the chart taken from OECD Health Data 2007 shows. The average graduation rate for doctors was about 34 per 1,000 practising doctors across the OECD area in 2005. This is too low to meet the expected increase in demand. If training rates are not increased, there will be a risk that OECD countries will continue pulling in doctors from low-income countries where healthcare needs are usually the greatest.

©OECD Observer No. 262, July 2007

Economic data

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Last update: 10 Nov 2020

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