Charting the Course: Navigating New Zealand's Radiation Oncology Future with Data-Driven Insights

This text is based on the article Using national data to model the New Zealand radiation oncology workforce, Originally published in PubMed on 29 June 2022

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, addressing the rising demand for radiation therapy is crucial for ensuring optimal healthcare. This concern is highlighted in the study titled 'Using national data to model the New Zealand radiation oncology workforce'. Despite a dedicated workforce investing significant clinical hours, there's a noticeable gap in meeting treatment needs. The study emphasises the importance of reliable models to estimate both the supply and demand for radiation oncologists (ROs).

In this study, a demand model was created using national data from the Radiation Oncology Collection (ROC) and insights from a survey of ROs. Essential metrics, such as radiation therapy intervention and retreatment rates (IR/RTRs), along with data on treating non-cancer conditions, were collected from the ROC. Survey responses added crucial details on treatment complexity, time allocation, and available work hours. These findings were integrated with workforce forecasts from a supply model by the Ministry of Health.

According to the demand model, influenced by the insights from the study, more ROs may be needed by 2031, assuming current IR/RTRs are maintained. However, the supply model suggests a decline in ROs over time, leading to a potential shortage. The model's flexibility allows adjustments to assess the impact of workforce or practice changes, indicating a potential need for more ROs if working hours decrease or IR/RTRs increase.

The crucial role of robust data and models in effective planning, as highlighted in the study, is evident. The presented RO demand model, enriched with detailed information, provides credible estimates. These estimates offer valuable insights for decisions related to training, recruitment, and retention strategies within the radiation oncology workforce.

This text is part of the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) repository of best practices and innovations to address the cancer workforce crisis in Europe. You can find more examples of best practices here.