9 in 10 psychiatrists say workforce shortages are risking patient care in Australia

An alarming report from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has found 9 in 10 (93%) Australian psychiatrists believe the current workforce crisis negatively impacts patient care. 

In December, the RANZCP received responses from 1269 members in their nationwide survey on well-being and job satisfaction amongst psychiatrists.

Respondents reported:

  • 9 in 10 felt the workforce shortage negatively impacts patient care.
  • 7 in 10 have experienced the symptoms of burnout in the past 3 years.
  • Almost 8 in 10 have observed an increase in the symptoms of burnout amongst colleagues in the past three years.
  • Over 3 in 10 are considering leaving the profession in the next 5 years.

When asked what factors participants believe are contributing to burnout amongst psychiatrists, the survey found:

  • Over 8 in 10 respondents said workforce shortages or inadequate staffing. 
  • 8 in 10 respondents said an under resourced system.
  • 7 in 10 respondents said workloads, including increasing patient load and complexity of presentations.
  • Almost 6 in 10 respondents said moral injury and feeling disempowered.

RANZCP President, Dr Elizabeth Moore said workforce shortages were the most critical issue facing the mental health system.

“Australia has a critical and chronic shortage of psychiatrists. Not only are there not enough, but they are also unevenly distributed across the country”, said Dr Moore.

“Australians are missing out on essential mental health care, with some more vulnerable than the others. This includes people living in rural and remote areas and First Nations peoples.

“This is devastating to the mental health care workers – the psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs and nurses – who are dedicated to helping Australians when they need it most.”

Dr Moore said workforce wellbeing and patient outcomes had a close relationship. 

“Research shows the conditions that lead to burnout are also the conditions that negatively impact patient outcomes. It’s important we take this seriously.”

Last year the Federal Government released the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy which outlined the need to attract, train and retain people to build the mental health workforce, highlighting positive work experiences were critical for the plan’s success. 

As part of its implementation roadmap, the strategy proposed a two-year timeline for the Federal and state and territory governments, along with training and education providers and peak bodies and colleges to address critical workforce shortages.

RANZCP welcomed the report, stating that frontline workers are desperate to see concrete action from governments.

“Psychiatrists and mental health staff are working around the clock to make up for the shortfalls in the workforce, tackle increased demand for services and provide the best possible care to their patients. 

“But the situation we have at the moment with a stretched-out workforce is untenable.

“In the upcoming Federal Budget, we need proactive, targeted and sustainable investment in the workforce so no Australian misses out on life saving and essential mental health services.

“Both Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Health Mark Butler know that good mental health is good for the economy, as is evidenced by the Productivity Commission,” Dr Moore said.

Ahead of the Federal Budget in May, the RANZCP is calling on the Federal Government to:


  • Invest $7.06 million to fund the Psychiatry Interest Forum program for a further 6.5 years to attract the next generation of psychiatry trainees.   


  • Invest an additional $24.85 million to expand the Psychiatry Workforce Program to support an additional 45 trainee and training supervisor posts.   
  • Increase Specialist Trainee Program (STP) funding by $5.52 million over three years to fund additional training placements in private hospital settings in 2025-2027 to ease pressure on consultant psychiatrists and enable private hospital beds to be used to appropriate capacity.   
  • Invest $225,000 over three years to support Directors of Training and administration staff to ensure additional training posts have adequate oversight and support.   
  • Introduce a new funding stream to support the establishment of new psychiatry trainee placements in private psychiatric practices.   
  • Invest $6.95 million to extend the Military and Veteran Psychiatry Training Program from 2025 to 2028.  


  • Improve working conditions by:   
    1. Introducing a new psychiatry MBS ‘complex care’ item for assessment, support, and management of people with complex mental health presentations and/or circumstances   
    2. Increasing the MBS rebate for psychiatry services to 100% of the schedule fee from the current 85%, and increase the MBS billing provision for psychiatry trainees, so they can bill at 60% of the consultant psychiatrist rate.   
  • Support collaboration across the mental health workforce by investing $11 million each year for three years to train nurses to become accredited mental health nurses.

View the RANZCP’s full pre-budget submission

About the survey 

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) surveyed members across Australia in December 2023 to get their views on the impact of workforce shortages on their wellbeing, job satisfaction and patient care.

The survey received responses from 1269 psychiatrists that highlighted the severity of the workforce shortage crisis. Over 90 per cent of respondents believed psychiatry workforce shortages negatively impact patient care and 82.05 per cent of respondents said workforce shortages are contributing to burnout in the profession.

RANZCP 2024 Workforce Survey Report

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Dishi Gahlowt on +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.                                                                         


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