Information for practitioners

UPDATED 22 September 2021 — Information for practitioners about the pandemic response sub-registers

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 a 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.

Medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, who are registered on the 2020 sub-register until 5 April 2022, are limited to practice for the COVID-19 response.

Their scope of practice was previously limited to supporting the vaccination rollout but was changed on 8 September 2021. This followed a request from states and territories to help provide additional surge health workforce in response to significant changes in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A second temporary sub-register was established on 22 September 2021 for up to 12 months. Practitioners from across 12 regulated health professions are on the 2021 sub-register. These practitioners had recently stopped practising and can now return to practice if they choose to. They can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations).

Practitioners on the sub-registers are not obliged to practise. They can opt out at any time by emailing pandemicregister@ahpra.gov.au and don’t need to explain why.

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.

More information, including an infographic and up-to-date data about how many practitioners are on each sub-register, is on the pandemic response sub-registers page.

We recognise health service needs may 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.

On the 2020 sub-register are medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners. They are registered until 5 April 2022.

On the 2021 sub-register are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, dental practitioners, diagnostic radiographers, medical practitioners, midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacist, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists. They are registered until 21 September 2022.

If governments alert us to significant changes in need, we may add other practitioners to the 2021 sub-register in the future to help provide an additional surge health workforce.

Diagnostic radiographers, physiotherapists and psychologists who were on the 2020 sub-register when it closed for these professions in April 2021 are not being returned to the sub-register.

Medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register up to 5 April 2022 have had the notation on their registration changed so they can work in any area that supports the COVID-19 response, but only if they choose to help and are fit and suitable to do so.

This is reflected on a practitioner’s registration with the notation ‘Registered on pandemic response sub-register. Limited to practice for the COVID-19 response.’

Roles directly supporting the COVID-19 response are those associated with but not limited to:

  • vaccination rollout – administering the vaccine, handling and storage activities, dosing and administering the vaccine and/or helping with this, and/or safety and surveillance monitoring following vaccination
  • clinical and non-clinical roles directly related to the COVID-19 response
  • employment and practice as part of a surge workforce or temporary backfill positions due to outbreak management or quarantining of other health workers.

However, because the National Law1 protects the title of a registered practitioner rather than restricts their scope of practice, current registration may not be a requirement for all of the above role types, such as contact tracing and assessment of exemptions.


1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

Practitioners on the 2021 sub-register are not limited in what they can do as part of a surge health workforce to support the COVID-19 response. They can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations) and are: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, dental practitioners, diagnostic radiographers, medical practitioners, midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists. They are registered until 21 September 2022.

No, there is no fee to be on the 2020 or 2021 sub-registers. If a practitioner who is on one of the sub-registers is employed during the temporary period of registration, they still do not have to pay a fee.

Ahpra registers health practitioners so they can practise, but we do not have a role in employing practitioners. There are links to Commonwealth, state and territory health department websites on the COVID-19 health workforce webpage. A copy of both the pandemic response sub-registers has been provided to state and territory health departments to help their pandemic workforce planning.

Practitioners on the 2020 or 2021 sub-registers may be contacted directly by local health departments about employment opportunities. Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register can work in any areas that support the COVID-19 response while practitioners on the 2021 sub-register can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations).

The expectation is that if you are on the sub-registers you are available to help. Employment may be subject to your vaccination status.

Practitioners who choose to stay on a pandemic response sub-register and go back to work, must comply with their profession’s professional indemnity insurance requirements, Code of conduct and work within the scope of practice as allowed by the notation on their registration. Medical practitioners and midwives who are on a sub-register should also refer to the FAQ about run-off indemnity cover.

Practitioners on the 2020 or 2021 sub-registers are expected to complete any training or education that’s required while employed to ensure their knowledge and skills are appropriate for the role. While compliance with the registration standard for continuing professional development (CPD) is required for continuing registration, there will be no checks for compliance with the standard when the sub-register is closed. If a practitioner on a sub-register chooses to apply for continuing registration on the main register, then CPD completed may be relevant but compliance with the registration standard will not be checked.

There is no obligation to practise outside of supporting the vaccination rollout if you do not want to. Supporting the COVID-19 vaccination rollout may include roles associated with but not limited to:

  • handling and storage activities
  • dosing and administering the vaccine/and or helping with this, and/or
  • safety and surveillance monitoring following vaccination.

Registered health practitioners who are authorised to administer COVID-19 vaccines will be required to complete additional training related to the handling and administration of the vaccines, including the Commonwealth Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination training program.

Ahpra and National Boards have also published some useful vaccination information for practitioners.

Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register can now work in any area that supports the COVID-19 response, but only if they choose to help and are fit and suitable to do so. There is no obligation to practise or remain on the sub-register, however, if you do not opt-out you may be contacted by health department representatives to see if you wish to support the vaccination rollout or perform other duties such as backfilling healthcare workers in quarantine.

Practitioners on the 2021 sub-register may also be contacted by health department representatives about opportunities to support the vaccination rollout, including relieving healthcare workers at vaccination centres so they can return to frontline care.

A number of healthcare and recruitment organisations are seeking staff to support the vaccination rollout. There are opportunities to support:

  • aged care and disability facilities
  • general practice led COVID clinics, and
  • large scale vaccination clinics run by state and territory health departments.

Information about current opportunities can be found at:

You can find general information on our vaccination information page.

Through the creation of the first pandemic response sub-register in 2020, special arrangements were put in place via regulation to enable run-off indemnity cover to be maintained for medical practitioners and midwives on the sub-register and working in private practice to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension of this special arrangement is provided under the Medical Indemnity Rules 2000 and the Midwife Professional Indemnity (Commonwealth Contribution) Scheme Rules 2020 and only applies to medical practitioners and midwives.

These arrangements apply until 17 January 2022, coinciding with the extension of the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) Declaration 2020. Any further extensions will be confirmed by the Department of Health. Medical practitioners and midwives on the 2020 sub-register are reminded that they are limited to practice for the COVID-19 response. Medical practitioners and midwives on the 2021 sub-register can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations).

Yes, you can. There is no obligation to practise or stay on a sub-register. Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register can opt out up until 5 April 2022. Practitioners on the 2021 sub-register can opt out up until 21 September 2022. Let us know if that is what you want to do by contacting us at pandemicregister@ahpra.gov.au.

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner, medical practitioner, nurse, midwife or pharmacist who opted out of the 2020 sub-register and wishes to return to that sub-register to help with the COVID-19 response only, you may request this by contacting pandemicregister@ahpra.gov.au, but only if you:

  • have opted out of the 2020 sub-register between 6 April 2021 and 7 September 2021
  • have not been granted registration in the same profession on the main register
  • have an application in the profession currently in progress or were intending to apply for registration on the main register soon
  • are available and willing to support the COVID-19 response
  • do not have a health issue which prevents you from practising safely
  • can get the required professional indemnity insurance arrangements in place
  • have not had a change to your criminal history, and
  • are suitable and safe to practise the profession.

Upon receipt of you request, Ahpra will consider your eligibility to be returned to the 2020 sub-register, as well as any disclosures you made in your application for registration on the main register before providing you an outcome.

If you are a medical practitioner, nurse, midwife, pharmacist (extended from 6 April 2021) or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner (extended from 30 June 2021) and you have applied for registration, before the extension of the 2020 sub-register for your profession, you can also keep practising while we assess your application.

If you are approved for registration on the main register, you will be removed from the 2020 sub-register. Registration on the main register allows you to practise in roles within the scope of your profession. You are not limited to helping with the COVID-19 response.

No. We recognise health service needs may 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. This includes escalating applications for registration to the main Register of practitioners where there is workforce need due to demands created by the pandemic.

If you were not included on the 2021 sub-register established on 22 September 2021, you did not meet eligibility requirements.

Medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register are temporarily registered until 5 April 2022.

The 12 professions on the 2021 sub-register are temporarily registered until 21 September 2022.

If governments alert us to significant changes in need, we may add other eligible practitioners to the 2021 sub-register in the future to help provide additional surge health workforce.

If you are a psychologist, physiotherapist or diagnostic radiographer and applied for registration before the 2020 sub-register closed on 19 April 2021, you can keep practising while we assess your application. You will continue to be registered and will appear on the Register of practitioners as being registered. Your details will be updated once your application is decided.

If you are approved for registration on the main register, you may practise in roles within the scope of your profession. You are not limited to practice for the COVID-19 response.

The easiest way to check your registration is to look up the Register of practitioners on the Ahpra website.

All applicants need to meet the relevant National Board’s registration standards including criminal history, English language and recency of practice. We will contact you directly if further information is required in support of your application.

If your employer enquires about your current registration status, please direct them to the Register of practitioners as proof that you are still registered.

The first temporary pandemic response sub-register was established in April 2020 to help fast track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners in response to COVID-19.

Practitioners on the sub-register had temporary registration for up to 12 months. When it was time to close the 2020 sub-register, the need for specific professions to be on it had changed.

For diagnostic radiographers, physiotherapists and psychologists, the sub-register closed on 19 April 2021. For medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, the sub-register was extended for 12 months and will close on 5 April 2022. This is the 2020 sub-register.

Significant changes in health service needs resulted in the establishment of the 2021 sub-register on 22 September 2021. Twelves regulated health professions are on this sub-register which will close on 21 September 2022.

Psychologists, physiotherapists and diagnostic radiographers were automatically removed from the 2020 pandemic response sub-register when it closed.

If you had non-practising registration before the pandemic, you were returned to non-practising registration when the 2020 sub-register closed on 19 April 2021.

As of 20 April 2021, if you are not registered with the relevant National Board or have not made an application for registration on the main register that is yet to be decided, you cannot work in your profession.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 24/09/2021