07 Dec 2023
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) welcomes the findings of the Kruk Review into health practitioner regulatory settings and looks forward to examining the reform opportunities identified in the final report.
In response to the report, Ahpra has today announced that from 18 December, overseas-based applicants will no longer need to attend an in-person identity check in Australia before their registration can be granted. This change aligns with the Attorney General’s Department’s National Identity Proofing Guidelines.
Streamlining this aspect of the application process will save overseas health practitioners and their employers time and money without changing the minimum standards that ensure public safety.
‘We are pleased to introduce this change and reduce unnecessary red tape for overseas-based health practitioners, which directly responds to recommendations in the Kruk Review,’ Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.
‘By streamlining this process, Ahpra has ensured we can safely register overseas-based health practitioners while significantly reducing the burden on them when first applying for registration in Australia.
‘We hope this change will reduce costs and administrative burden and encourage international health practitioners to come to work in Australia.’
The change means Ahpra and National Boards can register an overseas-based health practitioner before they come to Australia. There is no change to the requirement to obtain a domestic and international criminal history check before registration is granted.
Rural Doctors Network CEO Richard Colbran welcomed the streamlining of the registration process, saying it would contribute to Australia’s ability to attract and recruit health workforce.
‘Internationally trained medical and health staff are vital for our nation’s social fabric, and have been for decades, and we are grateful for their commitment and service, Mr Colbran said.
‘The whole sector should be prepared to adjust ways of working to ensure processes are smoother and engagement is genuine so that we give our clinical professionals the best chance of success in supporting our communities and thrive professionally.’
In September last year, National Cabinet announced an independent review, led by Ms Robyn Kruk AO, to examine the regulatory settings and qualification recognitions for overseas-trained health professionals and international students who have studied in Australia.
The review focused on opportunities to streamline health practitioner regulation, to ease skills shortages in critical health professions.
Today’s final report makes 28 recommendations for reform.
While Ms Kruk has been completing her final report, Ahpra wasted no time and addressed issues raised in her interim report released in April this year.
Already, Ahpra’s streamlined processes for international graduates produced faster registration approval times that proved vital in the handling of a near doubling of the number of international health practitioners that applied to work in Australia in the past year.
The 2022/23 Ahpra annual report shows of the 877,119 registered health practitioners in Australia at 30 June this year, 19,288 were new overseas registrants - a 92 per cent increase on the previous financial year, with more than half of these nurses and midwives.
Reforms of the registration process have cut the average assessment time for international applications from 29 days down to just 10 days.
Increased exam places for internationally qualified nurses, enhanced information for employers and clearer information for international applicants on the Ahpra website underpin this workforce boost.
Last month, Ahpra announced the opening of a new purpose-built centre in Melbourne for the examination of the clinical skills of internationally qualified nurses and midwives. This new centre means these overseas trained nurses and midwives will have shorter wait times to sit their exams so they can work in the Australian health system sooner.
In medicine, Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia will keep working with our partners across the health system, including specialist medical colleges, to improve the experience of overseas-trained doctors seeking registration and work in Australia. We have established a team to lead this work and support reform and improvement of registration systems and processes.
This work is focused on:
Mr Fletcher thanked Ms Kruk for the report and said international medical graduates play an important role in Australia’s health workforce in providing much needed care to patients in Australia.
‘Ahpra and the National Boards will work with our partners across the health system to continue to remove unnecessary barriers for international health practitioners to work safely in Australia. In our complex health system, collaboration with all agencies is the key to achieving systemic change,’ he said.
‘In sharpening our focus on workforce flexibility and removing red tape from the registration process, we will continue to prioritise patient safety. Future reforms must always strike a careful balance between safety, fairness, and flexibility.
‘Ahpra is committed to continually improving the pathways for all internationally qualified practitioners to enter Australia and join our health system, while maintaining high standards that make the Australian health regulation system safe.’