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Distribution Priority Area Exceptional Circumstances Assessment

About the Program

The Australian Government uses the Distribution Priority Area (DPA) indicator to identify distribution challenges in Australia’s medical workforce. DPA is calculated by comparing the actual level of GP services provided to a GP catchment with the level of services the same community should receive if they were receiving a benchmark level of GP Services.

DPA is an impartial mechanism which relies on the most recently available Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) demographic data (including age, gender and socio-economic status) as well as Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) billing data to assess levels of medical service provision throughout Australia. The DPA is reviewed and updated annually to reflect the latest available data.

It is recognised that sometimes, an area can face pressures that are not picked up in the DPA assessment.

Additional factors are now able to be considered alongside an area’s non-DPA status. This assessment may see an area become, for that year, DPA to support recruitment of a broader pool of doctors into the area. This should address any GP services shortfall arising from those additional factors.


Practices in rural non-DPA locations in SA can apply for an exceptional circumstance assessment by demonstrating the range of issues that they believe should be considered for the location.

For more information on eligibility please contact Mandy McCulloch, RDWA General Manager.

Important Information

The Distribution Working Group (DWG) will assess applications seeking a change to an area’s non-DPA status.

Applicants will need to work with the Rural Workforce Agency (RWA) and the Department of Health to gather the information to be assessed.

The DWG will review the non-DPA status of an area based on the following criteria:

  • Support of the local Rural Health Workforce Agency (RWA)
    The application for exceptional circumstances must have the support and engagement of the RDWA in South Australia. You will need to demonstrate the RDWA is working with you to address workforce concerns and that steps have been or are being taken to implement RDWA advice or support actions.
  • Changes to health services, workforce or health system
    You can demonstrate an unexpected large change to the health workforce resulting in a substantial drop in health services to the community that is not recognised in the last DPA update. This may include changes in services arrangements, eg doctor retirements (without replacement), hospital closures or an unexpected sharp increase in population.
  • Patient demographics or changes
    Your patient cohort is within a demographic that is underserviced or requires a specialised nature of service. Socio-economic status, proportion of ageing, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the area are all able to be considered.
  • Absence of services
    The area your practice is located in can demonstrate difficulties in recruiting or retaining medical practitioners at a scale that is measurably different to similar communities and would warrant discretion being applied within health workforce programs.

Requests will be assessed by the DWG within 3 weeks of submission and The Department of Health will advise of the outcome within 2 weeks of the DWG decision date.

DWG outcomes will also be published online to ensure transparency.


To apply please request an application form from the RDWA and fill out your section of the form.

The second step in applying is to return the form to RDWA. RDWA will then complete the relevant section of this form.

The final step in the application process is for RDWA to submit your application to the DWG along with supporting documentation and/or letters of support.


To apply, or for more information, please contact
Mandy McCulloch, General Manager
Phone: (08) 8234 8277
Email: generalmanager@ruraldoc.com.au