Updated 25 May 2020
We are being asked a range of questions about how the Boards would respond to requests for changes to the way that we register individuals in the context of managing the health sector impacts of COVID-19.
As an overriding principle, the Boards are prepared to be flexible in their approach although safety remains our first priority for National Boards and Ahpra. In this context, we are considering how our regulatory requirements can adapt to emergency health service needs and support health service delivery while continuing to protect the public.
We are working to answer your questions as soon as possible and will be regularly updating the information below. If your query is not answered under one of the question categories below, please email us on COVID19@ahpra.gov.au.
Updated 21 April 2020
We are receiving many questions about aspects of COVID-19 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.
We strongly recommend that you download the Australian Department of Health’s recently launched app, Coronavirus Australia. This app will help you to stay up to date with the latest official information and advice, and help you find relevant contact information.
The app is available for free through the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices. Please note the following for compatibility requirements:
If you are unable to use the app, please visit the Australian Government Department of Health webpage Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert, to gain access to a collection of resources for individuals and health service providers.
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 20 May 2020
The COVID-19 emergency has affected registered health practitioners’ CPD in various ways. In some cases CPD events have been cancelled, or practitioners’ leave, and in other cases, practitioners have had CPD opportunities associated with COVID-19. National Boards encourage practitioners to continue CPD relevant to their practice where possible. However, they do not want CPD requirements to take practitioners away from clinical care or cause additional concerns to practitioners already under extra pressure due to COVID-19. If a practitioner can't meet the CPD standard because of the COVID-19 pandemic, then generally National Boards won't take any action for the registration period during which the COVID-19 emergency is in force. However, if the COVID-19 emergency resolves more quickly than expected, National Boards may issue updated guidance about what CPD they would expect practitioners to complete within the current registration period.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) will not take action if doctors cannot meet the CPD registration standard during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Board has encouraged doctors to continue to do CPD that is relevant to their scope of practice where possible.
These relaxed requirements apply to the CPD doctors are expected to undertake in 2020, and to their renewal declaration in the year that covers 2020 CPD. For doctors with general registration, this will be the declaration they make when renewing their registration in 2020. For specialists, because the CPD cycles for specialist colleges vary, it may be related to the declaration made in subsequent years, about the 2020 CPD year.
Updated 15 May 2020
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) will waive the usual rotation requirements for interns in 2020.
The Board will accept the following supervised clinical experience for general registration:
Health services that employ interns must continue to supervise them and provide them, as much as possible, with meaningful educational clinical experiences and teaching, as well as support during what will be a challenging and difficult time.
The Board recognises that much education is likely to be ‘on the job’ and that this pandemic will expose interns to unique clinical experiences.
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.
However, if the time or experience missed is more substantial, and would not provide the relevant breadth of experience or enable learning outcomes to be met, then there may be a need for the intern to complete more clinical experience once the COVID-19 pandemic is less acute.
The Board reduced the minimum supervised clinical experience required of interns in 2020 to at least 40 weeks, from the standard 47 weeks, to allow for sick leave and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not reduced the length of the internship.
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 who started at the beginning of 2020 to continue their internship until the start of 2021, when they can apply for general registration. Interns who started their internship in late 2019 are required to continue their internship until late 2020.
The Board will continue to review the requirements for interns, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes clearer. We will be flexible if there are ongoing impacts on health services that affect internships, including for the small group of interns who may start their internship mid-year.
The Board requires interns to satisfactorily complete supervised clinical experience for the purposes of general registration. Practitioners whose internship does not include clinical roles (including assessing and treating individual patients) are not eligible for general registration.
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.
Published 19 March 2020
Depending on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will take into account potential impacts on notification processes and timeframes. For example, if practitioners need more time to respond, this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
We are actively planning to minimise any impact of disruption to our operations on our processes and at this stage are not anticipating impacts on notifications processes.
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 25 May 2020
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 with the current disruption to English language testing. We understand that this may cause some stress for applicants. For the purpose of registration, the approved English language standard (ELS) tests remain the requirement as set out in each Board’s English language skills registration standard. Please note at home and/or ‘indicative’ versions of any of the ELS tests have not been approved by the Boards for regulatory purposes so cannot be accepted. We are working to identify options while English language tests are disrupted, including whether we may be able to extend the validity of test results safely. We will publish more information as soon as we can.
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:
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.
Until any further changes are announced, we can only provide general responses to individual queries asking us to modify regulatory requirements. Meanwhile, we are working as hard as we can to prioritise existing applications for registration based on our understanding of health service priorities. This includes finalising the applications of internationally qualified practitioners who are already in Australia and must have self-isolated for 14 days, depending on when they arrived.
We are making pragmatic decisions to help boost priority workforce, including establishing the pandemic response sub-register for medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists. Inclusion on the sub-register is automatic for individuals who previously held general or specialist registration and who left the national register of practitioners or moved to non-practising registration in the past three years. More information is in the pandemic response sub-register FAQs.
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.
Internationally qualified practitioners who came to Australia before our borders were closed must have self-isolated for 14 days before completing presenting-in-person requirements. We have introduced an interim measure so that applicants, who are in Australia and who hold current in-principle approval of registration, can present in person at their intended place of employment to have their identity verified and to have their identity documents certified by a registered health practitioner.
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 in person outside of an Ahpra office to find out more.
Recently retired medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists and those with non-practising registration who meet the criteria have been added automatically to the pandemic response sub-register. This sub-register enables practitioners from these professions who previously held general or specialist registration and who left the national register of practitioners or moved to non-practising registration in the past three years to return to practice.
Physiotherapists, psychologists and medical radiation practitioners who meet the criteria will be added to the sub-register soon. We are contacting all eligible practitioners. The sub-register will operate on an opt-out basis and there is no obligation for anyone added to the sub-register to practise or remain on it. 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.
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) understands that IMGs may have difficulty demonstrating progression towards general or specialist registration, given that Australian Medical Council (AMC) and specialist college examinations and assessments have been cancelled.
For 2020, the Board will not refuse to renew an IMG’s registration or refuse to re-register an IMG solely because they have not been able to sit an AMC or college examination or assessment. This applies to IMGs who were scheduled to sit an examination or be assessed from March 2020.
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.