The quality of care received by a patient or consumer critically depends on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of thehealth workforce; the structure and functioning of the health workforce is critical to the structure and functioning ofthe health system overall. To a very large extent, diagnosis and treatment decisions call on the training and experienceof the health professional. The quality of the interaction between a patient or consumer depends on the interpersonaland technical skills of health professionals. In a sense, health workers are important to defining the very nature ofhealth care services. The importance of the health workforce is further highlighted by the fact that, as is typical of mostservice industries, labour accounts for a large proportion of health costs (around 80%).This paper provides an overview of the size and composition of the health workforce in Australia. It then reviewsthree segments of the workforce in more detail (medical, nursing and other health professionals) and reviewscontemporary policy issues affecting those groups.