Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Ahpra and National Boards: Growing a safe workforce
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Ahpra and National Boards: Growing a safe workforce

09 Nov 2023

The number of international practitioners registered to work in Australia over the past year almost doubled, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and National Boards 2022/23 Annual report reveals.

Key points
  • Australia’s health workforce grows, boosted by a near doubling of internationally qualified practitioners registered in the past year.
  • Time taken to register overseas trained and graduate practitioners slashed, helping to get them ready to work sooner.
  • Concerns raised about practitioners dropped by 8.6 per cent.

9 November 2023

Streamlined process sees a doubling of newly registered international practitioners

The number of international practitioners given the green light to work in Australia over the past year almost doubled under a streamlined registration process by the national health regulator.

The 2022/23 Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency annual report reveals there were 877,119 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions at 30 June 2023, an increase of almost three per cent over the past year.

More than 42,000 newly registered Australian health graduates were joined by 19,288 overseas-trained practitioners. There was a 92 per cent increase in new overseas registrants, and more than half were nurses and midwives.

Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said an overhaul of registration processes has cut the assessment time for international applications from 29 days to just 10, and from 11 days to seven for Australian graduates.

Increased exam places for internationally qualified nurses, enhanced information for employers and clearer information for international applicants on the Ahpra website all contributed to the workforce boost.

‘To address workforce shortages, we have cut the complexity and time it takes to register practitioners and get them ready to work where they are most needed,’ Mr Fletcher said.

‘Public safety is the paramount principle driving everything we do. That not only means making sure that every registered health practitioner is skilled and suited for their vital role, but also doing everything we can to ensure there are more health workers to meet demand.’

A five-year trend of increasing practitioner registrations per capita now means there are 3.3 registered health practitioners for every 100 Australians.

However, more work is required to increase the rates of practitioners identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander working in the nation’s health systems. In 2022/23, 10,813 health practitioners identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander – that’s 1.2 per cent of all registered health practitioners, and well short of the 3.8 per cent representation in the general population.

Ahpra and the National Boards’ ongoing work to improve cultural safety and eliminate racism in the health system is now a guiding principle of the National Scheme that governs health regulation in Australia. That commitment to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples has seen the total number of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander staff, board and committee members increase to 48, including eight new appointments of Board and committee members and nine new staff members over the past year.

A new Ahpra Engagement and Support team is also aimed at helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants and registrants have a positive and culturally safe experience.

Nationally there was an 8.6 per cent drop in notifications made about practitioners, with 1.5 per cent of Australia’s registered health practitioners having a concern raised about them in 2022/23. The 17,096 notifications made across the country related to 13,584 health practitioners.

Practitioners were referred to tribunals on 231 occasions for the most serious matters. Tribunals finalised 129 cases during 2022/23, of which 98 per cent resulted in disciplinary action.

Continued efforts to uncover and act on sexual misconduct in the healthcare system saw 841 allegations of boundary violations in the past year relating to 728 health practitioners. The sustained jump in reports over the past two years reinforces the urgency of Ahpra’s blueprint for reform, which has already seen a public review of the criminal history registration standard, the rollout of specialist investigators and an expansion of the Notifier Support Service, staffed by social workers.

By the numbers

  1. Health practitioners make up six per cent of all Australian workers.
  2. Numbers of practitioners continue to grow, with 14.3 per cent more applications for registration than last year and a 4.7 per cent increase in renewals of registration.
  3. An international workforce boost saw 19,288 overseas-qualified practitioners gain registration in 2022/23. This is 92.5 per cent more than last year. More than half of these new registrants were nurses and midwives.
  4. Almost 184,000 students were studying to be health practitioners in 2022/23, in more than 802 approved programs of study or clinical training programs.
  5. Regulatory investigations saw 231 matters referred to a tribunal. During 2022/23, 129 cases about health practitioners were finalised at tribunal, of which 98per cent resulted in disciplinary action.
  6. Three-quarters of the 442 criminal complaints received related to alleged unlawful use of title.
  7. Several hundred cosmetic surgery notifications were received, and most related to just 15 practitioners. The Cosmetic Hotline received 315 calls. A targeted cosmetics advertising audit reviewed advertising by 69 practitioners, of which 65 had non-compliant advertising.
  8. Eight cases were prosecuted by Ahpra in the criminal courts and all related to holding out offences. Six cases resulted in findings of guilt, one was dismissed, and in one case the defendant left Australia before entering a plea.
  9. There were 79,759 domestic and international criminal history checks carried out.
  10. There was a three per cent increase in the number of notifications closed, with 10,659 complaints finalised. There were 16.1 per cent fewer notifications open at 30 June 2023 than at the same time last year.

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Page reviewed 9/11/2023