The New Zealand ophthalmology workforce 2008


Associate Professor Mark Elder, Department of Ophthalmology, Christchurch Hospital, P.O. Box 4710, Christchurch, New Zealand. Email:


Background:  The ongoing supply of quality ophthalmic care to the New Zealand (NZ) population depends on a sustainable ophthalmology workforce. The NZ population is growing and aging rapidly, placing increasing demands on ophthalmic services. Predicting future supply of NZ ophthalmologists requires an accurate description of the current workforce.

Methods:  A confidential postal workforce survey, the fourth since 1997, was sent to all NZ consultant ophthalmologists in October 2007. A second survey conducted in January 2008 by email and direct telephone contact gained a complete dataset of NZ ophthalmologists. Results were compared with NZ population data, and the Australian Ophthalmology Workforce Model 2006 was used to estimate future demands on NZ ophthalmic services.

Results:  There are currently 16–24 vacancies for consultant ophthalmologists in NZ, with another eight positions planned to be created by 2010, bringing the shortfall to 24–32. Retirement rates average to three per year, although 28 consultants are planning to retire by 2013. Retention of new NZ Fellows stands at around 71%. Increasing demands of an aging population are likely to increase the shortfall of ophthalmologists to 40–50 by 2015, and 46–69 by 2025.

Conclusions:  This report identifies a growing gap between supply of NZ ophthalmologists and demand for their services. We highlight the need for a comprehensive model with a detailed analysis of the many factors influencing supply and demand, enabling planning for an appropriate supply of ophthalmologists meeting the needs of the future NZ population.