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      The trend and features of physician workforce supply in China: after national medical licensing system reform

      1 , 2 , , 1 , 3

      Human Resources for Health

      BioMed Central

      Physician supply, Licensing, Medical examination, China

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          The annual number of newly licensed physicians is an important indicator of medical workforce supply, which can accurately reflect an inflow into the health care market over a period. In order to both regulate medical professions and improve the quality of health care services, China established its medical licensing system from the point of the implementation of ‘Law on Practising Doctors’ in 1999. The objective of this study is to depict the trend and structure of newly licensed physicians thereafter.


          This study analyses a unique census data set that provides the headcount of newly licensed physicians from 2005 to 2015 in China. We also review a short history of medical licensing system reform in China since the 1990s.


          The annual number of first-time licensed physicians in China increased from 159 489 in 2005 to 221 639 in 2015. Up to 2015, over half of newly licensed physicians had not received a medical education equivalent to a bachelor degree or higher. Around 51% of China’s newly licensed physicians were female in 2005, while the same ratio for females in 2015 was 56%.


          This article first provides an exploratory analysis of physician inflow into health care market in China using physician licensing data. The medical licensing system in China allows entering physicians with a broad range of educational levels. Moreover, the feminisation of the physician supply in China has become increasingly apparent and its impacts on health care provision still require more rigorous examination.

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          Most cited references 18

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          China's human resources for health: quantity, quality, and distribution.

          In this paper, we analyse China's current health workforce in terms of quantity, quality, and distribution. Unlike most countries, China has more doctors than nurses-in 2005, there were 1.9 million licensed doctors and 1.4 million nurses. Doctor density in urban areas was more than twice that in rural areas, with nurse density showing more than a three-fold difference. Most of China's doctors (67.2%) and nurses (97.5%) have been educated up to only junior college or secondary school level. Since 1998 there has been a massive expansion of medical education, with an excess in the production of health workers over absorption into the health workforce. Inter-county inequality in the distribution of both doctors and nurses is very high, with most of this inequality accounted for by within-province inequalities (82% or more) rather than by between-province inequalities. Urban-rural disparities in doctor and nurse density account for about a third of overall inter-county inequality. These inequalities matter greatly with respect to health outcomes across counties, provinces, and strata in China; for instance, a cross-county multiple regression analysis using data from the 2000 census shows that the density of health workers is highly significant in explaining infant mortality.
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            Effects of policy options for human resources for health: an analysis of systematic reviews.

            Policy makers face challenges to ensure an appropriate supply and distribution of trained health workers and to manage their performance in delivery of services, especially in countries with low and middle incomes. We aimed to identify all available policy options to address human resources for health in such countries, and to assess the effectiveness of these policy options. We searched Medline and Embase from 1979 to September, 2006, the Cochrane Library, and the Human Resources for Health Global Resource Center database. We also searched up to 10 years of archives from five relevant journals, and consulted experts. We included systematic reviews in English which assessed the effects of policy options that could affect the training, distribution, regulation, financing, management, organisation, or performance of health workers. Two reviewers independently assessed each review for eligibility and quality, and systematically extracted data about main effects. We also assessed whether the policy options were equitable in their effects; suitable for scaling up; and applicable to countries with low and middle incomes. 28 of the 759 systematic reviews of effects that we identified were eligible according to our criteria. Of these, only a few included studies from countries with low and middle incomes, and some reviews were of low quality. Most evidence focused on organisational mechanisms for human resources, such as substitution or shifting tasks between different types of health workers, or extension of their roles; performance-enhancing strategies such as quality improvement or continuing education strategies; promotion of teamwork; and changes to workflow. Of all policy options, the use of lay health workers had the greatest proportion of reviews in countries with a range of incomes, from high to low. We have identified a need for more systematic reviews on the effects of policy options to improve human resources for health in countries with low and middle incomes, for assessments of any interventions that policy makers introduce to plan and manage human resources for health, and for other research to aid policy makers in these countries.
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              Transformation of the education of health professionals in China: progress and challenges.

              In this Review we examine the progress and challenges of China's ambitious 1998 reform of the world's largest health professional educational system. The reforms merged training institutions into universities and greatly expanded enrolment of health professionals. Positive achievements include an increase in the number of graduates to address human resources shortages, acceleration of production of diploma nurses to correct skill-mix imbalance, and priority for general practitioner training, especially of rural primary care workers. These developments have been accompanied by concerns: rapid expansion of the number of students without commensurate faculty strengthening, worries about dilution effect on quality, outdated curricular content, and ethical professionalism challenged by narrow technical training and growing admissions of students who did not express medicine as their first career choice. In this Review we underscore the importance of rebalance of the roles of health sciences institutions and government in educational policies and implementation. The imperative for reform is shown by a looming crisis of violence against health workers hypothesised as a result of many factors including deficient educational preparation and harmful profit-driven clinical practices.

                Author and article information

                +86 13693179686 , dstang@bjtu.edu.cn
                Hum Resour Health
                Hum Resour Health
                Human Resources for Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                3 April 2018
                3 April 2018
                : 16
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0067 3588, GRID grid.411863.9, School of Public Administration, , Guangzhou University, ; Guangzhou, 510320 Guangdong China
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2256 9319, GRID grid.11135.37, China Center for Health Economic Research, , National School of Development, Peking University, ; Beijing, 100871 China
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1789 9622, GRID grid.181531.f, School of Economics and Management, , Beijing Jiaotong University, ; Haidian, Beijing, 100044 China
                © The Author(s). 2018

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100001809, National Natural Science Foundation of China;
                Award ID: 71704143
                Award Recipient :
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                © The Author(s) 2018

                Health & Social care

                physician supply, licensing, medical examination, china


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