Updated 13 January 2022
We are being asked a range of questions due to the COVID-19 pandemic about how the Boards would respond in the context of managing the effects of COVID-19 on the health sector and on registered health practitioners being able to meet regulatory requirements.
As an overriding principle, the Boards are prepared to be flexible in their approach although safety remains our first priority for the National Boards and Ahpra. In this context, we are considering how our regulatory requirements can adapt to changing health service needs and support health service delivery while continuing to protect the public.
We are regularly updating the information below. You might also find information on other pages of our COVID-19 updates hub helpful.
Some of the questions we have received about aspects of COVID-19 are outside of our role of protecting the public by regulating individual registered health practitioners. We understand that people are looking for trusted sources of information and we want to help you get to the best place to resolve your question or concern.
Please visit your state or territory health department website for up-to-date information on about COVID-19.
Updated 17 April 2020
All conditions or undertakings (restrictions) imposed on a practitioner’s registration continue to be in effect and monitoring of compliance by the practitioner will continue as outlined in their monitoring plan or the restrictions. Practitioners are still required to comply with all aspects of the restrictions. If a practitioner’s circumstances mean their ability to comply with the restrictions is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, they should contact their case officer. Practitioners will need to provide evidence of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their ability to comply and the efforts they have made to meet their obligations. This may include evidence from third parties such as a practitioner’s employer, senior person, or other nominated individuals. The National Board may need to consider a practitioner’s specific circumstances and make a decision. A practitioner’s case officer will advise if this is the case and the timeframes that will apply.
Yes, while there are recommendations or orders in place by the relevant health department to minimise or avoid interpersonal contact. Once the Board has approved the one-on-one education to be done, it may be conducted via videoconference with the agreement of the health practitioner’s Board-approved educator.
No, online education will usually not be an appropriate education medium when a Board has required the learning to be conducted one-on-one. One-on-one education is a fully interactive learning environment which provides continuous feedback to both the leaner and the educator. The educator can subsequently provide qualitative and quantitative feedback to the Board to inform it about any ongoing risk to be mitigated
We will update all practitioners subject to urine drug screening requirements about how they can check if an Ahpra-approved collection centre also does COVID-19 testing. This will enable practitioners who are concerned about exposure to attend another approved collection centre.
If a practitioner is currently required to attend for urine drug screening as a result of restrictions (conditions or undertakings) on their registration and they are required to self-isolate as a result of overseas travel or close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they may be eligible to apply for leave from urine drug screening requirements for the period of self-isolation. To apply they must provide:
Should leave be approved, on return to practice, the practitioner will also be required to provided evidence that they did not practise during the period of isolation (for example, rosters or leave statements).
Updated 23 November 2021
The National Boards expect you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required continuing professional development (CPD) for the 2020 – 2021 registration period. However, we understand that some practitioners may have had trouble fully meeting CPD, particularly any face- to -face requirements, due to the impacts of COVID-19. Health practitioners are reminded that CPD is important as it helps maintain competence and supports safe and effective care.
The Board will not take action if you have not been able to complete CPD due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19.
It’s important that you answer all questions honestly and accurately when completing your registration renewal. You must declare that you have not met the CPD requirements if that is the case. In the future the Board may request evidence of what you have done to address any identified gaps in your CPD learning needs such as any interactive or face- to -face CPD requirements.
Given the importance of CPD and the increasing availability of flexible and COVID-safe CPD options, you will be expected to fully meet CPD requirements in future and when renewing in 2022.
Health practitioners are reminded that there are many flexible delivery and COVID safe options for CPD and interactive CPD can be completed virtually, and that COVID-related learning activities can be counted towards CPD.
If you have not met the CPD requirements due to the impacts of COVID-19 you should update your CPD plan to explain how you will address any resulting learning needs, such as your face to face or interactive requirements, in the next registration period. The Board expects you to access any specific training requirements as soon as you are able, e.g. by scheduling face- to- face requirements when available.
The Medical Board of Australia (Board) believes that participation in CPD is central to good medical practice.
In 2020, the Board relaxed requirements for CPD as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, COVID-safe CPD arrangements are now well established. In February 2021, the Board informed medical practitioners that they are expected to resume normal CPD activities.
Medical practitioners renewing their registration in 2021 are being asked whether they have met the CPD registration standard for the preceding registration period (1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021). If they have not met the standard because of the Board’s 2020 flexibility in relation to CPD, the Board will not take regulatory action.
You can read more about maintaining professional performance in section 9 of Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia.
Updated 16 December 2021
With recent COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns in a number of states and territories causing workforce pressures, the Board has made further changes for 2021 interns directly affected by COVID-19.
The Board expects that interns will complete the core terms and 47 weeks accredited service unless they:
Interns who have been directly affected by COVID-19 (had to take genuine COVID-related leave):
The intern will need to provide details of when the leave was taken and explain the reasons.
For the purpose of granting general registration at the end of the intern year, the Board will accept a report from the Director of Medical Services, Director of Training or another person authorised to sign off intern reports which confirms that each intern has performed satisfactorily during the intern year.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) has changed requirements for 2021 interns who have had their rotations interrupted directly as a result of COVID-19.
Interns who have taken additional leave that was not directly related to COVID-19 must meet the requirements in the registration standard Granting general registration as a medical practitioner to Australian and New Zealand medical graduates on completion of intern training. Interns must complete:
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) has not reduced the length of the intern year. It has reduced the minimum supervised clinical experience required of interns who have taken leave for genuine COVID-related absences to at least 40 weeks, from the standard 47 weeks, to allow for sick leave and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interns who are redeployed by their health service to meet COVID-19 related workforce needs must still complete 47 weeks.
When the period of supervised practice has been less than 47 weeks, but at least 40, the intern will need to explain the reasons for the shortfall. Having to take sick leave or to isolate as a result of COVID-19 are acceptable reasons for reducing the period of supervised practice.
The Board will not approve applications for general registration earlier than the usual intern completion date. The Board expects interns to continue their internship for 12 months before they can apply for general registration.
Interns who have been redeployed as a result of COVID-19:
The Board may request confirmation from the employing health service that the redeployment was the result of COVID-19.
Yes. The Medical Board of Australia acknowledges that COVID-19 outbreaks are likely to continue to cause workforce pressures in 2022, therefore the Board has decided that the 2021 changes for interns directly affected by COVID-19 will also apply in 2022.
Information on reduced supervision hours for general registration and the registration examination for pharmacy interns is available on the Pharmacy Board of Australia website.
Public safety is the first priority for National Boards and Ahpra. We recognise that registered health practitioners play a vital role in treating and containing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
As set out in the Pharmacy Board of Australia's (the Board) Registration standard: Supervised practice arrangements (the standard) that is approved by Health Ministers, the Board requires 1,824 hours of approved supervised practice (SP). These requirements were set in the public interest to ensure that competent pharmacists are registered to deliver services to the public.
The standard provides flexibility in the delivery of training by an approved preceptor. If challenges have emerged that impact the capacity of preceptors and employers to continue to supervise interns at their workplace, other options can be considered. Preceptors may specify other locations/arrangements in the training arrangements, such as a pharmacy department, community pharmacy, compounding facility, residential care facility, GP clinic, research unit such as a school of pharmacy, pharmaceutical industry, medication reviews etc. Preceptors and their interns should consider exploring such options, the arrangement of which may be facilitated if the current employer will continue to cover the intern’s salary at other locations. These variations will not require additional approval by the Board.
If a significant variation to the approved training arrangements is proposed e.g. an alternative arrangement that more significantly limits or precludes interaction with the public and supervising pharmacists for a lengthy period of time, this would need more careful consideration of how the intern could demonstrate all their learning outcomes and develop the relevant breadth of experience. In the COVID-19 emergency, the Board will consider how best to balance the public safety interest in interns meeting the supervised practice requirements and the health service delivery needs and will explore whether there are some standard modifications to the supervised practice arrangements that the Board could agree. However, significant limits on interaction with the public and/or supervising pharmacists may require submission of a modified training plan to Ahpra.
Updated 30 November 2021
Some registered health practitioners have asked about mandatory training that requires close contact (manual handling, occupational violence training and advanced life support training) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Board mandated training for professions due to renew their registration in November 2021
There are very few cases where National Boards have mandated training that requires close contact as part of their continuing professional development (CPD) requirements.
The National Boards expect you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required CPD for the 2020–2021 registration period. However, we understand that some practitioners may have had trouble fully meeting CPD, particularly any face-to-face requirements, due to the impacts of COVID-19. The Board will not take action if you have not been able to complete CPD due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19.
If you have not met the CPD requirements due to the impacts of COVID-19 you should update your CPD plan (where relevant) to explain how you will address any resulting learning needs, such as your face-to-face or interactive requirements, in the next registration period.
The Board expects you to access any specific training requirements as soon as you are able, e.g. by scheduling face-to-face requirements when available.
This advice will also be published in the relevant National Board’s newsletter.
Other National Boards such as the Medical, Nursing and Midwifery, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, and Paramedicine Boards, do not have requirements for mandatory training as part of CPD requirements but have provided guidance about modified CPD requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic (see below).
Other mandated training
Health services or employers may also have requirements for mandatory training. Modifications to these requirements during COVID-19 are a matter for the health services, employers or government, not the Boards. In these cases, the Boards would expect a registered health practitioner to comply with the guidance from their health service or employer, and any other public health guidance that may apply.
National Boards’ guidance about CPD during COVID-19 for professions due to renew their registration in November 2021.
This guidance applies for practitioners for the 13 Boards due to renew their registration in November 2021.
The Board expects you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required continuing professional development (CPD) for the 2020–2021 registration period. However, we understand that some practitioners may have had trouble fully meeting CPD, particularly any face-to-face requirements, due to the impacts of COVID-19. Health practitioners are reminded that CPD is important as it helps maintain competence and supports safe and effective care.
It’s important that you answer all questions honestly and accurately when completing your registration renewal. You must declare that you have not met the CPD requirements if that is the case. In the future the Board may request evidence of what you have done to address any identified gaps in your CPD learning needs such as any interactive or face-to-face CPD requirements.
Health practitioners are reminded that there are many flexible delivery and COVID-safe options for CPD and interactive CPD can be completed virtually and that COVID-related learning activities can be counted towards CPD.
If you have not met the CPD requirements due to the impacts of COVID-19 you should update your CPD plan to explain how you will address any resulting learning needs, such as your face to face or interactive requirements, in the next registration period. The Board expects you to access any specific training requirements as soon as you are able, e.g. by scheduling face-to-face requirements when available.
Published 19 March 2020
We are monitoring and taking into account impacts of COVID-19 on notification processes and timeframes. For example, if practitioners need more time to respond, this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
While we are actively working to minimise the impact of disruption on our processes, we are currently experiencing some increase in our investigation timeframes.
Published 21 April 2020
Practitioners must not practise without appropriate PII arrangements in place. Each National Board has published a PII arrangements registration standard with the specific requirements for PII, including any exemptions which may apply.
Most privately practising and self-employed registered health practitioners are responsible for arranging their own PII cover. Most National Boards do not specify a minimum level of cover. Instead, practitioners are advised to ensure they take out adequate and appropriate insurance or PII cover for their circumstances.
The following information guides practitioners on the options for managing their PII during COVID-19, if their circumstances have changed. Practitioners whose practice has been restricted or who have made a personal choice not to practise should direct enquiries about possible PII premium refunds to their provider.
What PII cover does a practitioner need if they are still practising?
A practitioner who is still practising will need to maintain PII cover that meets the Board’s PII arrangements registration standard. However, if their practice has changed significantly (e.g. they are seeing fewer patients or have changed to a non-clinical role), they should contact their PII provider to discuss their changed circumstances, and possibly amend their level of cover.
Practitioners who later return to normal practice must remember to review their cover again to ensure they continue to meet the PII registration standard.
Does a practitioner still need PII cover if they are not practising?
A practitioner who is not practising will need to maintain, at a minimum, PII run-off cover.
A practitioner who is not practising for part of the registration period for whatever reason (e.g. their place(s) of practice is closed), does not need to have full PII cover for that period. However, they must ensure they have appropriate run-off cover for matters that would otherwise be uncovered arising from their previous practice as a registered health practitioner.
When returning to practice, practitioners must remember to review their cover again to ensure they continue to meet the PII arrangements registration standard.
Updated 21 February 2022
Ahpra acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has, in some cases, affected an applicant’s ability to meet all document requirements when applying for registration. Certified copies of original documents are still required in support of an application for registration. During COVID-19, uncertified copies can be submitted as part of an application but the application will not be approved until we have received certified copies and supporting documents from other authorities.
Our normal process for receiving documents in support of an application for registration during COVID-19 remains the same for all applicants, including for internationally qualified practitioners.
Outside of Australia, the following people are authorised to certify documents:
Documents supporting applications for registration can be uploaded online.
Ahpra and the National Boards understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting practitioners in various ways. These unprecedented times are causing stress and uncertainty for many people. We know our regulatory approach needs to be flexible to support you in these exceptional circumstances, but patient safety remains our first priority.
Registration fees go directly to regulating for safety in each health profession and to keeping the public and practitioners safe.
Our regulatory work is funded by registrant fees rather than government. As that important regulatory work must continue through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not in a position to refund registration fees or to waive renewal fees. You can view our most recent annual report for more information, including data on growth areas within our work, such as increased notifications about health practitioners.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Boards will consider how to support individual practitioners who are experiencing financial hardship because their ability to practise has been significantly affected by COVID-19, especially if it were to prevent them from re-registering.
The relevant Board will make announcements about registration fees ahead of its renewal period opening.
We appreciate that this uncertain time is a cause of stress and anxiety for practitioners and we encourage you to take steps to look after your health, including to seek help when needed. A list of practitioner support services is on the Ahpra website.
National Boards and Ahpra are aware that practitioners may have difficulty demonstrating English language proficiency due to the disruption to English language testing as a result of the pandemic. We understand that this may cause some stress for applicants. A 2021 temporary policy has been developed for applicants who wish to combine results from two test sittings via the English language test (ELS) pathway to demonstrate that they meet the requirements of the National Boards’ English language skills registration standards. For more information click here.
Acknowledging the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 and in an effort to be responsive, National Boards have approved a temporary policy position that means the following English language tests will be accepted for applications open or received from 21 February 2022:
All other requirements remain as set out in each Board’s English language skills registration standard. We will continue to work to identify if further options are needed while ELS tests are disrupted and publish any updates here.
Test providers are regularly updating their information about test availability. We recommend you visit the relevant test provider’s websites directly to see when you can next access a test in your area:
ELS testing is now available in all states and territories in Australia. Test providers in Victoria have restarted testing and are working to increase their capacity to deliver tests in response to an anticipated increase in demand.
If you have successfully completed an approved program of study in Australia and wish to use the test pathway to meet the English language skills registration standard pathway, we recommend you book as early as possible and at least two months in advance (wherever possible) of your application for registration. Available testing dates are listed on test providers websites.
Other than the temporary acceptance of the OET computer-based test, OET@home test and the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition, under the conditions set out above; all other at home and/or ‘indicative’ versions of any of the ELS tests or versions that include any element of remote proctoring, have not been approved by the Boards for regulatory purposes, so cannot be accepted.
The Boards and Ahpra are responsible for implementing a national regulatory scheme which has the core objective of protecting the public. While we are considering how our regulatory requirements can adapt to support emergency health service needs and delivery of care, patient safety remains our first priority.
We appreciate that there are individuals willing to help with the COVID-19 emergency response who are in Australia but are not yet registered. Many are contacting us, asking for exemptions to registration requirements due to common circumstances, such as English language tests not being available. We are examining such issues and will continue to publish information about changes to our regulatory requirements during the COVID-19 emergency. We urge everyone to regularly check COVID-19 updates to see how we are responding to the pandemic.
A temporary pandemic response sub-register was established by Ahpra and National Boards in April 2020 to support a surge health workforce. In April 2021, at the request of the Commonwealth Health Minister, the 2020 sub-register was extended for another 12 months for five professions (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, medical practitioners, midwives, nurses and pharmacists). Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register can work in any area supporting the COVID-19 response.
A new sub-register was announced in September 2021 in response to changing healthcare system needs. Practitioners on the 2021 sub-register represent 12 regulated health professions and they can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations).
More information, including FAQs, is available for practitioners and employers:
National Boards and Ahpra are working with government, health services and others to support the registered health workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise that there are also many applicants who are keen to be registered so they can contribute to the emergency response, including those who previously held registration in professions that are now on the frontline of the health service response to COVID-19.
Initial priorities for the COVID-19 workforce are medical practitioners, nurses and midwives, paramedics, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, especially in the Northern Territory. We are also working on prioritising physiotherapists, psychologists and medical radiation practitioners, especially radiographers. This includes finalising the applications of internationally qualified practitioners who are already in Australia and must have self-isolated for 14 days after their arrival.
We are working as hard as we can to finalise applications to support health service workforce priorities and will update individuals on the progress of applications for registration as soon as we can.
We have introduced an interim measure so that applicants who are in Australia and hold current in-principle approval of registration, can present in person at their intended place of employment to have their identity verified. Some applicants are also eligible to have their identity verified via audio-visual link while in mandatory quarantine so their registration can be finalised sooner.
This interim measure also applies to international medical graduates who have not previously been registered as a medical practitioner with limited or provisional registration under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Visit Presenting at a location other than an Ahpra office to find out more.
While responding to COVID-19 is still an important focus for the Australia community and registered health practitioners will continue to play a vital role in administering the vaccine when available, the need for the temporary sub-register has lessened and will start to close from April 2021.
Ahpra has developed a process for practitioners on the sub-register to be able to apply for ongoing registration.
Published 30 November 2021
Practitioners renewing registration in 2021 must meet the requirements of their National Board’s Recency of practice registration standard. A temporary policy that modified the usual recency of practice standards’ requirements for renewal of registration in 2020 does not apply in 2021. Practitioners must honestly declare whether or not they have met the standards’ requirements when renewing registration in 2021.
You will need to meet the Board’s Recency of practice registration standard when you apply for renewal in 2021.
Updated 30 November 2021
Practitioners with temporary registration who are on the 2020 and 2021 pandemic response sub-registers are eligible practitioners who had recently retired and left the national register of practitioners or had non-practising registration and met the criteria. All eligible practitioners have been contacted.
Practitioners who would like to return to practice and who are currently not registered, need to apply to the relevant Board and meet the usual application requirements.
We recognise health service needs are likely to evolve as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and we will keep working with state and territory and Commonwealth governments to support the COVID-19 emergency response. More information is in the pandemic response sub-register FAQs.
State and territory governments have imposed lockdowns at various times in response to localised coronavirus cases since the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected in Australia in early 2020. Restrictions under these lockdowns often vary across states and territories.
Health practitioners should stay up to date with state and territory and Commonwealth government announcements about what are essential and non-essential services. We respect a health practitioner’s right as an individual to make decisions about their own safety and wellbeing and do not require anyone to keep practising if they choose not to.
However, practitioners who continue practising should apply the community safety measures put in place by government. Refer to state and territory health authorities and the Australian Government Department of Health webpage Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert for more information.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) has decided that for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will streamline processes to enable IMGs within hospitals with limited and provisional registration to be redeployed more easily without a formal application to the Board.
The Board will accept a written notice (COVID-19 Notice of change in circumstances - CCOV-30) from the Director of Medical Services (DMS) or equivalent of changes to the following:
Change of supervisor in the following circumstances:
Change in the position in the following circumstances:
Move from level one to level two supervision in the following circumstances:
This advice applies to IMGs working in and employed by the public health system. Privately employed IMGs working in the public or private system can apply to change levels of supervision using the ‘change in circumstances’ application process. They cannot change levels of supervision through a written notice from the Director of Medical Services.
At this stage, all other changes in circumstances, including for general practice positions, position changes to a new hospital network and changes in supervision to level three or four will require a usual application for a change in circumstances.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) recognises that health services are keen to mobilise doctors to work in areas they are most needed which may include rostering doctors outside their usual scope or specialist registration.
The Board has advised doctors and organisations who engage doctors that they will need to make decisions about scope of practice as the Board does not prescribe what individual doctors can and cannot do.
The decision should consider each doctor’s qualifications, training and experience, as well as the transferability of their skills to deliver safe care and should prioritise patient safety. The decision needs to also consider the conditions in which the doctor will be working, including facilities and their access to supervision and training. Long established local processes for credentialing and defining scope of practice will be crucial to this.
Doctors with general and specialist registration are not restricted in their scope because they have specialist registration. Specialist registration confirms that they have additional specialist qualifications, as well as the qualifications for general registration.
Internationally qualified specialists can be granted specialist registration without being qualified for general registration. This means that questions can arise about how far outside their specialist registration they can practise. The Board’s primary focus is on patient safety. Hospitals and health services should use their processes for credentialing and defining scope of practice to determine whether it is appropriate to roster the specialist in another role.
A doctor can work in a different scope of practice if it is safe to do so, but they cannot use a title for which they do not have specialist registration. For example, a ‘specialist emergency physician’ using their skills to work in an intensive care unit would be in breach of the National Law if they call themselves a ‘specialist intensive care physician’. Similarly, a ‘specialist intensive care physician’ who uses their skills to work in an emergency department cannot call themselves a ‘specialist emergency physician’. However, using their transferable skills to do this work safely is not in breach of the National Law and does not require any regulatory approvals.
With the increasing uptake of telehealth, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) has agreed to temporarily vary the definitions of level 1 and level 2 supervision to allow international medical graduates (IMGs) with limited and provisional registration to participate in telehealth when appropriate supervision can be assured, as follows.
Level 1 supervision
Under the standard definition, level 1 supervision does not permit supervision via telephone contact or other telecommunications. During this pandemic period, the Board has decided that telehealth can be undertaken by IMGs with level 1 supervision if:
Level 2 supervision
Telehealth can be undertaken by IMGs with level 2 supervision when:
Level 3 and level 4 supervision
Telehealth is allowable under the existing requirements for level 3 and 4 supervision.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) requires IMGs to demonstrate progression towards general or specialist registration when they apply for renewal of registration.
When deciding on renewal applications, the Board may take into consideration individual circumstances on a case by case basis, particularly if there is evidence from the Australian Medical Council or the relevant college that the applicant could not access the necessary examinations/assessments to demonstrate progression.
National Boards and Ahpra are maintaining a watching brief on this issue and liaising with accreditation authorities. Accreditation authorities and National Boards have developed joint principles for clinical placements with the Commonwealth Departments of Health and Education, to help stakeholders and decision-makers.
Individual accreditation authorities have also issued statements and advice so please check their websites.
National Boards and Ahpra are maintaining a watching brief on this issue and liaising with accreditation authorities. The accreditation authorities have jointly issued advice about the impact of COVID-19 which is available on the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative forum website.
Individual accreditation authorities have also issued advice so please check their websites. Across the National Scheme we are actively considering how our regulatory requirements can adapt to the COVID-19 emergency while continuing to protect the public. We will publish more information as its available.
National Boards and Ahpra emphasise that all registered health practitioners should follow the public health guidance on COVID-19 issued by the Chief Medical Officer and health departments. Broadly, if a registered health practitioner follows this guidance there are unlikely to be implications for their registration, however the Boards will still need to consider any notification made about a health practitioner case by case.