Independent Evaluation of the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program (RHMT)

CLIENT: Australian Government, Department of Health

DATE: 2019 - 2020

The national evaluation examined the extent to which the current design and delivery of the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program is achieving its aim of improving the recruitment and retention of medical, dental, nursing and allied health professionals in rural and remote Australia. The evaluation also considered the benefits to local health delivery from engagement in teaching and training through the RHMT program. The evaluation investigated the design and delivery of the program, outcomes, value for money and ongoing appropriateness of the program as a response to rural workforce shortages.

The evaluation used a mixed-methods approach. This included interviewing over 980 stakeholders in semi-structured interviews, focus groups and roundtables, 30 written submissions from peak and professional bodies, two national electronic surveys (Multidisciplinary Health Workforce Survey >4,000 responses; RHMT program staff survey, 411 responses), review of longitudinal workforce data, and review of program reports and expenditure data. An Expert Reference Group provided advice to the Department of Health (the Department) and the evaluators in the development of the methodology and execution of the evaluation.

While the evaluation highlights the complex and changing environment in which the RHMT program operates, overall it has found that the RHMT program has been an appropriate response and important contributor to addressing rural health workforce shortages. After two decades, there is a strong foundation for rural training and research in rural, remote and regional areas which is now considered routine.
The final report offered recommendations to improve the various components of the RHMT program to ensure it continues to be an appropriate approach to addressing current and emergent rural health workforce shortages, contemporary models of care, and characteristics of the new generation of health professionals.