Responding to COVID-19 remains an important focus for Australian Governments and the community. Registered health practitioners are playing a vital role in supporting the vaccination rollout and in providing healthcare across various settings.
Ahpra and the National Boards are supporting the COVID-19 response by helping provide access to a potential surge workforce when the healthcare system is experiencing changing demands due to outbreaks of COVID-19 variants. These practitioners are registered on the 2020 and 2021 temporary pandemic response sub-registers and are included on the national Register of practitioners.
A temporary pandemic response sub-register was established for up to 12 months in April 2020 (the 2020 sub-register) to help fast track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners.
In early April 2021, the Commonwealth Health Minister requested that medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists be extended to stay on the sub-register for up to 12 months (to 5 April 2022) to help with the COVID-19 vaccination program only. This was also the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners.
The sub-register closed on 19 April 2021 for other professions including psychology, physiotherapy and diagnostic radiography. Practitioners from these professions who were on the sub-register were able to apply for ongoing registration through a transition pathway before the sub-register closed. Those who did not apply have either lapsed registration or returned to non-practising registration and cannot practise.
On 8 September 2021, the registration of practitioners on the 2020 sub-register was changed so they could work in any area supporting the COVID-19 response, but only if they choose to help and are fit and suitable to do so. This followed a request from states and territories to provide additional surge health workforce in response to significant changes in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 22 September 2021, Ahpra and National Boards established a new sub-register (the 2021 sub-register), enabling nearly 29,000 practitioners to return to practice for up to 12 months. The practitioners represent 12 regulated health professions and they can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations).
The temporary pandemic response sub-registers operate on an opt-out basis with eligible practitioners added to the pandemic response sub-register automatically. Only eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners must choose to opt in (to the 2021 sub-register only).
There is no obligation for practitioners on the sub-registers to practise. They can opt out at any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t need to explain why.
Only those who are properly qualified, competent and suitable should be on the sub-registers. Practitioners who are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 should only work in a safe practice environment.
Practitioners who choose to stay on the pandemic response sub-registers and go back to work, must comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, professional indemnity insurance requirements and work within the scope of practice as allowed by the notation on their registration.
Registration ends on 5 April 2022 for practitioners on the 2020 sub-register and on 21 September 2022 for practitioners on the 2021 sub-register. The names of practitioners will be removed from the Register of practitioners, unless a sub-register is extended in support of the COVID-19 response.
We expect practitioners on both sub-registers to tell us under section 130 of the National Law, within seven days of becoming aware of a relevant event or change in status in relation to the events outlined in the NOCE-00 form.
As of 20 September 2021, there are 26,023 medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register.
As of 22 September 2021, there are 28,623 dental practitioners, diagnostic radiographers, medical practitioners, midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners on the 2021 pandemic response sub-register.