DWS or non-DWS, what’s the best location for a new clinic?

Clinic waiting room

Many people assume that a DWS location is the best place to open a new GP clinic but DWS status may not be an indication that patients are lining up to visit a clinic!

As part of our consultancy work, we help clients make informed decisions about opening a clinic. Clients list a DWS location as their first preference, under the impression that this equates to demand.

When the Department of Health are evaluating which districts constitute as a DWS, they assess the “GP billings to population ratio” compared to the national average – not how long patients are queuing to see a doctor.

Also, by the time a district has had DWS status for a couple of years, the area can be prone a mass opening of clinics, thus oversaturating the market.  This may not be reflected in DWS calculations for some time.

To decide whether a proposed clinic is in the right location to generate a good turnover, we recommend a feasibility study be completed before an area is decided upon. Or at a minimum, the following statistics be thoroughly researched:

  • Local population
  • Ability to attract a GP workforce
  • Competitor analysis
  • Service gaps – identifying an area your clinic can specialise or provide something ‘different’ to local competitors

We have seen first-hand that, just because a practice is in a DWS location in close proximity to a major city, doesn’t mean that it will attract doctors. For example, in Melbourne, there is an oversupply of doctors in some outer metropolitan DWS suburbs, while in other DWS suburbs, existing clinics with a similar distance to the CBD struggle to attract GPs.

In the current climate, realistically it may take 9-12 months to recruit a VR GP to your practice. You always need to be thinking a year in advance. In this time, a clinic that has opened on the proviso that its DWS status will help attract a larger pool of doctors may lose its status in February, leaving them in a large pool of other clinics who have opened with the same hopes. While it may temporarily help in recruiting overseas trained doctors, its temporary status should not be used as the basis of your location choice.

If you are thinking of opening a clinic but need help with researching the feasibility of your chosen areas, contact us today to find out how we can help.