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Using staffing ratios for workforce planning: evidence on nine allied health professions

Linda Cartmill1, Tracy A Comans2, Michele J Clark1*, Susan Ash1 and Lorraine Sheppard34

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Rd, Kelvin Grove, 4059, Brisbane, Australia

2 School of Medicine, Griffith University, University Drive, Meadowbrook, 4131, Brisbane, Australia

3 Division of Health Sciences, School of Health Sciences, The University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

4 School of Public Health, Tropic Medicine & Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, 4811, Australia

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Human Resources for Health 2012, 10:2  doi:10.1186/1478-4491-10-2

Published: 1 February 2012



Modern healthcare managers are faced with pressure to deliver effective, efficient services within the context of fixed budget constraints. Managers are required to make decisions regarding the skill mix of the workforce particularly when staffing new services. One measure used to identify numbers and mix of staff in healthcare settings is workforce ratio. The aim of this study was to identify workforce ratios in nine allied health professions and to identify whether these measures are useful for planning allied health workforce requirements.


A systematic literature search using relevant MeSH headings of business, medical and allied health databases and relevant grey literature for the period 2000-2008 was undertaken.


Twelve articles were identified which described the use of workforce ratios in allied health services. Only one of these was a staffing ratio linked to clinical outcomes. The most comprehensive measures were identified in rehabilitation medicine.


The evidence for use of staffing ratios for allied health practitioners is scarce and lags behind the fields of nursing and medicine.