May 2021

In this edition:


From the CEO

Welcome to our autumn 2021 update.

COVID-19 remains a pressing concern for us all and we report on the extension of our pandemic sub-register to support the vaccines rollout. Registered health practitioners have led the remarkable, sustained public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.

We’ve continued our work on improving health equity and health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, including the launch of our second Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan.

Our regulatory work has also continued apace. We registered more than 28,500 newly graduated health practitioners in the past few months. And we have published the outcomes of 39 cases involving registered health practitioners and others; you can read more in the court and tribunal summaries section below.

Ahpra staff are back in all our offices in each capital city and we have adapted to a shared home-and-office-days approach. Thank you for your interest in our work, and we hope you like the shorter format of this update.

Martin Fletcher

Martin.Fletcher@ahpra.gov.au

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Supporting the COVID-19 vaccination program

We established the pandemic sub-register in April 2020 as a temporary measure to help fast-track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners in response to COVID-19. The sub-register has been extended until 5 April 2022 for over 26,000 medical practitioners, midwives, nurses and pharmacists who were already on the sub-register. There are also plans to extend the sub-register for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners. The registration of all practitioners extended on the sub-register is limited to supporting with the COVID-19 vaccinations rollout.

Registered health practitioners have led the remarkable, sustained public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. As the national vaccination program gets underway, registered practitioners and students remain critical to this success by:

  • being vaccinated against COVID-19 unless medically contraindicated
  • being appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised
  • providing accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination including in social media and advertising, and
  • complying with local employer, health service or health department policies, procedures and guidelines on COVID-19 vaccinations.

The codes of conduct for each of the regulated health professions explain the public health obligations of practitioners. Ahpra and the National Boards summarised this advice in a joint position statement to registered practitioners and students: see the news item.

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Showing the human face of COVID-19 regulation: in conversation with two CHOs

In a recent episode of Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Adjunct Professor Brett Sutton, and Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, talk about their very personal experiences of leading during a pandemic, how they coped, and the impact on them and their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic required both of them to make daily decisions and provide advice to government which had far-reaching impacts on the community and thrust them into the glare of intensive and sustained media interest and public scrutiny. How did they as doctors − and people − cope with the year that they never expected?

You can listen to the full episode on our Podcasts page and subscribe to the Taking care series on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

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Embedding cultural safety in the National Scheme

A key objective of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is to embed cultural safety and eliminate racism from the health system. This strategy was developed in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group, which includes health leaders and experts and representatives from the National Scheme. Our shared vision is patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia’s health system is the norm, as defined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

We launched our second Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), our first at ‘Innovate’ level. We want this RAP is to ensure we do our part in embedding cultural safety in the practice of registered health practitioners, as well as how we do our work as regulators and supporting health equity.

As part of this work and to help us be better and more culturally safe regulators, we are rolling out the Moong-moong-gak Cultural Safety Training program nationally to all Ahpra staff, board and committee members. The program is designed to give everyone working in the National Scheme the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply culturally safe work practices.

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Identifying and managing vexatious notifications: our new framework

Ahpra has published A framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious notifications to help us identify and manage potentially vexatious notifications.

While independent research we commissioned in 2017 found that vexatious complaints account for less than one per cent of notifications, it’s important for us to have clear processes for dealing with these complaints quickly and fairly. The framework is based on the recommendations from that research report.

Visit our Concerns about practitioners page for more information and a link to the framework.

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Have your say on our consultations

Public consultation on the review of the shared Code of conduct

Twelve of the 15 National Boards have a shared Code of conduct that sets out the standards of professional conduct the National Boards expect and which they use to evaluate practitioners’ conduct. Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and to apply this code.

The shared code is also an important document for the public as it can help them understand what behaviour they can expect from a registered health practitioner and assess whether their care met professional standards.

National Boards and Ahpra are reviewing the shared code to ensure it stays up-to-date, relevant and useful for practitioners and to make it more accessible to the public. We have published a consultation paper that includes an overview of the review, case studies, proposed changes to the code and optional questions that may help frame your feedback.

The consultation is open until 6 July 2021 and we’re keen to hear from practitioners, the community and health system stakeholders. See our Consultations page for the consultation paper and more information.

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Learning from tribunal and court outcomes

There are important lessons for registered health practitioners and employers in tribunal and court decisions and we publish summaries of these in the News section of the Ahpra website. Since our last update in mid-December 2020 there have been 39 summaries published, with more than two-thirds of these relating to medical practitioners (16) and nurses (8). A selection is published here.

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Check out the National Board news

The 15 National Boards publish a range of newsletters and other information about their work: to visit their websites, follow the links on Ahpra’s home page.

Continue the conversation

You can stay in touch with us through:

If you have any comments or suggestions about Ahpra Report, please send them to newsletters@ahpra.gov.au

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Page reviewed 25/05/2021