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LCQ20: Manpower requirements for allied health professionals

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (October 26):


     Quite a number of members of the health sector have relayed that with the development in local health services, the demand for allied health staff by public hospitals, private hospitals and non-governmental organisations has been increasing, and the sector faces problems such as manpower shortage and recruitment difficulties, etc. at present.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have assessed the respective demand for and supply of allied health staff in the next five years; if they have, of the details, (with a breakdown as set out in the tables in annex); and whether the supply of allied health staff in the next five years can sufficiently meet the demand; if it cannot, how the authorities will solve the manpower shortage problem;

(b) whether the authorities have set aside sufficient resources for the training and recruitment of allied health staff in the next five years; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the authorities have considered collaborating with relevant organisations on improving the remuneration packages for allied health staff so as to retain talents; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The Food and Health Bureau assesses the manpower requirements for healthcare professionals including allied health professionals according to the triennial planning cycle of the University Grants Committee (UGC), and advises the UGC on the corresponding requirements for publicly-funded places to facilitate academic planning by tertiary institutions.  In making long-term manpower projections, we will take into account the anticipated manpower requirements of major healthcare providers having regard to, among other things, the wastage trends of different healthcare professions, the ageing rate of the population and changes in demographic profiles, and the community's need for services in particular areas, etc.  We will also take into consideration the implications on healthcare manpower arising from changes in healthcare services delivery models and related policies such as development of primary care and private hospitals and the introduction of a Health Protection Scheme.

     As at July 2011, there were a total of 5,773 allied health professionals in the Hospital Authority (HA).  Non-governmental and private healthcare institutions would in general employ staff on their own account according to their service and development needs.  Overall speaking, as our population grows and ages and with advancement in medical technologies, it is expected that the demand for healthcare manpower will continue to increase.  In view of this, for the triennial cycle starting from 2012, the Government will allocate an additional $200 million to increase the number of first-year first-degree places in medicine by 100, nursing by 40 and allied health professions by 146.  Meanwhile, training places for nurses offered by self-financing post-secondary institutions are also on the rise.

     Based on the outcomes of the Second Stage Public Consultation on Healthcare Reform, the Government will set up a high-level steering committee to conduct a strategic review on healthcare manpower planning (including doctors, dentists, nurses, Chinese medicine practitioners, pharmacists and allied health professionals) and professional development.  The steering committee will put forward recommendations in the first half of 2013 on how to cope with the anticipated demand for healthcare manpower, strengthen professional training, and facilitate professional development and regulation having regard to the findings of the review, with a view to ensuring the healthy and sustainable development of our healthcare system.

(b) and (c) Having regard to the demand for and supply of healthcare manpower, HA has made continuous efforts to attract and retain talents through various means, such as stepping up recruitment, providing more training and development opportunities as well as improving conditions of service for staff.  HA has also been working to relieve the workload of its allied health professionals by re-engineering work processes, streamlining work flow and recruiting additional supporting staff.  With the implementation of a basket of initiatives, the number of allied health professionals has recorded a net increase of 11% in March 2011 as compared to March 2008.

     HA plans to recruit 590 allied health professionals in 2011-12 to meet the need for service development.  HA also seeks to fill the existing vacancies in certain healthcare professional grades through various channels including local and overseas recruitment as well as employing part-time allied health staff.

     To provide more career advancement and development opportunities for its allied health professionals, HA introduced in 2008 a new model of professional development for the Diagnostic Radiographer, Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapist grades.  So far, 26 promotional posts have been created under the plan, including 3 "Consultant Therapists/Diagnosticians" and 23 "Senior Therapists/Diagnosticians".  HA will consider applying a similar model to other allied health professions having regard to the experience gained in the process.

     On training, HA set up the Institute of Advanced Allied Health Studies in 2007 to develop structured and long-term training plans for allied health staff.  It also provides courses on specialist and multi-disciplinary training and personal development, including a three-year in-service training course for new recruits.  HA plans to fund 37 allied health staff to attend short-term courses or internship programmes overseas in 2011-12 in addition to sponsoring some 100 allied health staff to undertake master degree courses.  In collaboration with local and overseas universities, HA also organises various specialist training and development programmes having regard to its service development needs.  Between 2006-07 and 2010-11, HA has invested a total of over $270 million on the training and development of its healthcare professionals.  

     We will closely monitor the manpower situation of various healthcare professions and respond accordingly in resource allocation, manpower training and planning so as to facilitate the sustainable development of our healthcare system.

Ends/Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 17:31


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