What is an area of need?

Doctors talking in a surgery

An area of need (AoN) is a location where there is a recognised lack of specific medical practitioners or where medical positions remain unfilled over a period of time, despite active recruitment strategies.

The AoN program supports health service providers facing a medical workforce shortage who can demonstrate that they have been unable to recruit either an Australian-trained medical practitioner or an international medical graduate (IMG) with general registration.

Once AoN status is approved, employers can extend their recruitment program to include IMGs not currently registered with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) (external site).

WA Health maintains a database of all locations and medical services in Western Australia (WA) that are recognised as an AoN.

The Area of Need database (PDF 24KB) is regularly updated and should be reviewed by health service employers seeking to employ medical practitioners.

Determining an area of need

Under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (WA) Act 2010 (external site) an employer seeking to hire an IMG with limited registration for area of need (external site) must be working in an area recognised as an AoN for the MBA to grant limited registration to the IMG.

  • AoN for general practitioners is restricted to rural and outer metropolitan regions but can be applied to positions in either the public or private sector.
  • AoN for specialists is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and is not restricted to rural or outer metropolitan areas.

Applying for an AoN determination is separate to the recruitment process for IMGs and can be time consuming.

Declaration of an AoN is the responsibility of the State or Territory Minister for Health (or their delegate). In WA the Minister for Health has delegated authority to approve AoN applications to the WA Chief Medical Officer.

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Medical Workforce