Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Measures announced to safely welcome more international practitioners
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Measures announced to safely welcome more international practitioners

28 Apr 2023

Ahpra and the National Boards welcome moves to safely introduce more trained practitioners into the nation’s health system sooner, as recommended by an independent review into Australia’s health regulatory settings.

Key points 
  • Assessment red tape to be cut, allowing more international practitioners enter and work in Australia safely and sooner.
  • Greater recognition of international qualifications from comparable health systems to fast-track some approvals.
  • Reviewing current standards, including English language and recency of practice requirements.

Co-ordinated approach planned to fast-track suitable health professionals 

Interim findings of the Kruk review endorse measures put forward by Ahpra to cut the red tape and costs faced by qualified internationally trained practitioners wanting to work in Australia’s health system.

‘The severe shortage of healthcare professionals across Australia’s health systems is a real and significant risk to patient safety,’ Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.

‘While a system-wide overhaul is needed to better align the qualifications recognised by Australian medical colleges and cut duplication of processes across authorities, Ahpra and the National Boards welcome the opportunity to be stewards for changes that will strengthen the nation’s health system immediately and in the long-term.

‘Patient safety will always be the paramount priority in registering any practitioner. But by eliminating needless duplication, easing bureaucratic delays and better recognising the experience of overseas health professionals we can attract the best and most suited to Australia, sooner.’

As the nation’s health workforce faces increased pressure related to the COVID-19 pandemic and an ageing population, the Australian Government appointed Ms Robyn Kruk AO to lead an independent review of the regulatory settings and qualification recognitions relating to overseas-trained health professionals and international students who have studied in Australia.

Interim findings of the Kruk review released today echo the recommendations proposed in Ahpra’s submission, which outlined immediate actions including:  

  • improving regulation timeframes and consistency by making registration assessment a core process under the bolstered stewardship of Ahpra
  • fast tracking approvals for practitioners from trusted countries by expanding the use of competent authority pathways
  • cutting red tape by removing duplications such as having to submit multiple criminal history checks while speeding up the allocation of Medicare provider numbers 
  • improving monitoring and publishing data outlining health workforce shortages, distribution and skills to better inform planning and policy
  • reviewing current standards, including English language and recency of practice requirements.

Overcoming many of the bottlenecks that prevent overseas-trained practitioners relocating to Australia will require system-wide coordination, such as better recognition of international qualifications by colleges and simplified visa requirements.

A move to a single portal for international applicants to lodge all their paperwork to Ahpra (covering migration, registration and employment) will also remove many of the duplications currently faced. The ‘tell us once’ approach will significantly cut the time and expense of navigating the current system.

‘Australia’s health regulation system is the safest in the world. This isn’t an accident. We have a rigorous process to ensure those registered to care for the community are adequately trained and qualified,’ Mr Fletcher said.

‘We know that registration and migration processes are not the easiest to navigate. We have been working closely with relevant agencies to streamline this and are pleased that we are already seeing a positive impact with overseas-based practitioner registration back to pre-pandemic levels.’

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme has allowed Australia’s registered health workforce to increase every year through both domestic graduates and international recruits.

Since January 2022 more than 19,800 international practitioners have been registered for the first time to practise in Australia. This includes 10,852 nurses or midwives, 4,954 doctors, and 3,996 allied health professionals.

In a further workforce boost the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia has this year increased the number of placements to sit the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) by almost 30% at the Adelaide Health Simulation, eliminating exam wait times for overseas-qualified nurses looking to get registered in Australia. 

But despite record numbers of health practitioners being registered, Australia currently needs an extra 860 general practitioners and this demand will grow to 10,600 by 2031-32. A severe shortage of nurses, will see Australia requiring an additional 46,000 registered nurses needed by 2026, including those required in aged care.

Ahpra has already begun streamlining its registration process to make it more simplified for registrants, including changes to English language requirements that allow applicants to resit specific parts of the test rather than restarting the entire process. Additional test options are also allowing applicants to be assessed sooner.

'Ahpra and the National Boards welcome the opportunity to be stewards for changes that will strengthen the nation’s health system immediately and in the long-term,' Mr Fletcher said.

Read our submission to the review (PDF, 596KB).

Contact us

  • For media enquiries, phone (03) 8708 9200. 
  • For registration enquiries, please phone 1300 419 495 (within Australia) +61 3 9125 3010 (overseas callers).
Page reviewed 28/04/2023