Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Accreditation
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  • Over 193,000 students studying to be health practitioners through an approved program of study or clinical training program
  • The National Scheme accredits over 850 approved programs of study delivered by more than 130 education providers through the work of accreditation authorities
  • Over $10 million of National Board funding contributions to accreditation authorities
  • National principles for clinical experience are designed to assist education providers, accreditation authorities and other stakeholders to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on student placements.

Ahpra publishes an online searchable database of approved programs of study that lists qualifications for general registration, specialist registration or endorsement of registration.

In February, the then COAG Health Council announced its response to the final report of Australia's health workforce: strengthening the education foundation, independent review of accreditation systems within the National Scheme, informed by further consultation undertaken by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC). Ministers accepted (either in full, in part or in principle) many of the recommendations in the final review report but did not accept the governance model recommendations. Ministers decided to direct Ahpra to establish an independent accreditation committee with broad stakeholder membership to provide advice to National Scheme bodies on relevant accreditation reforms, working within the existing governance of the National Scheme. 

The Accreditation Advisory Committee has been established by the Agency Management Committee to oversee the management of agreements for the performance of the accreditation functions, including financial and reporting matters; providing oversight of accreditation governance, accountability and transparency issues; and provide a whole-of-scheme perspective on accreditation. 

The committee met five times during 2019/20. A major focus of its work was the reporting model for the new accreditation agreements and terms of reference established in mid-2019. After the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the committee also considered effects on education providers and accreditation processes, including approaches by National Scheme bodies to monitor impacts of substantial changes to program delivery and scheduled clinical placements, and to manage associated risks. 

The committee will continue to monitor ongoing impacts of the pandemic. The committee issues a communiqué after each meeting to keep stakeholders informed about its work.

Ahpra’s procedures for developing accreditation standards are an important governance mechanism. They set out issues that:

  • an accreditation authority should consider when developing or changing accreditation standards
  • an accreditation authority should explicitly address when submitting accreditation standards to a National Board for approval
  • a National Board should consider when deciding whether to approve accreditation standards developed by the accreditation authority
  • a National Board should raise with the Ministerial Council – and when they should be raised – as they may trigger a Ministerial Council policy direction.

The procedures are published on the Procedures page. During the year, Ahpra completed reviewing and updating these procedures, and will publish the revised version early in 2020/21.

Each year, the National Boards contribute funding to accreditation authorities.

By 30 June 2019, Ahpra had signed new accreditation agreements with the 10 external accreditation authorities to apply until 30 June 2024. Early in 2019/20, National Boards established new terms of reference for accreditation committees, which mirror the key aspects of the agreements. 

Five National Boards exercise accreditation functions through a committee established by the Board:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Accreditation Committee (ATSIHPAC)
  • Chinese Medicine Accreditation Committee (CMAC)
  • Medical Radiation Practice Accreditation Committee (MRPAC)
  • Paramedicine Accreditation Committee (ParaAC)
  • Podiatry Accreditation Committee (PodAC).

This year, Ahpra continued to support the accreditation committees to:

  • assess and accredit programs of study
  • monitor approved programs of study
  • develop and/or review accreditation standards (ParaAC and PodAC)
  • develop consistent guidelines for accreditation of education and training programs in these professions.

At 30 June, these accreditation committees have accredited and approved:

  • ATSIHPAC – 15 programs of study, with one accreditation assessment in progress
  • CMAC – 10 programs of study
  • MRPAC – 25 programs of study
  • PodAC – 15 programs of study, with two accreditation assessments in progress.

The ParaAC is monitoring 26 Board-approved programs (under s. 310) until accreditation assessments can start against the newly developed paramedicine accreditation standards.

Ahpra’s role in supporting the accreditation committees provides an opportunity for multi-profession approaches to the accreditation function.

We supported the accreditation committees to apply a risk-based approach to their monitoring activities. The National Law supports a flexible, risk-based model. Ahpra works with the committees to tailor the methods and frequency of activities to monitor education providers’ compliance with the accreditation standards based on specific issues and risk profiles.

We supported the committees to review their accreditation processes and develop and consult on guidelines for accreditation of education and training programs in their professions. The guidelines provide detailed information about the approach the committees use to assess, accredit and monitor education and training programs in their respective professions, and are complemented by profession-specific information (such as approaches to establishing assessment teams) where necessary.

We also continued to support collaboration between the accreditation committees to implement a consistent cross-profession process and tools for annual data collection for more than 45 education providers delivering more than 90 approved programs across the five professions.

Ahpra supported the Paramedicine Accreditation Committee to develop new accreditation standards and started a project with the Podiatry Accreditation Committee to review and revise accreditation standards for podiatry, podiatric surgery and endorsement for scheduled medicines. The project team worked in collaboration with the two committees to draft accreditation standards that are consistent with the standards for 11 other professions, that reflect current and emerging trends in education and practice, and that address the relevant objectives and requirements of the National Law.

Wide-ranging consultation on the draft accreditation standards for paramedicine began in late 2019 and the project was due to be completed in August 2020 when the National Board was expected to approve the new standards.

The project with the Podiatry Accreditation Committee also covers the professional capabilities for podiatry, podiatric surgery and endorsement for scheduled medicines, as these form an important part of the accreditation standards. Wide-ranging consultation on the draft accreditation standards and professional capabilities will begin in late 2020 and the project will be completed in mid-2021.

The accreditation committees, with Ahpra, participated in the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum (HPACF). This participation reflects the HPACF’s multi-profession and multi-entity nature and its consideration of issues affecting all accreditation entities. 

Students build the capabilities they need to practise safely and competently as a registered health practitioner through clinical education experiences, including student placements in a range of health services and settings.

Australia’s future health workforce is dependent on current students maintaining access to a range of opportunities to build these capabilities. Their timely graduation and registration is critical to workforce sustainability.

To comply with social distancing requirements, in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic many universities and education providers moved quickly to close campuses and move to online course delivery. Simultaneously, some health services cancelled clinical placements while public health restrictions prevented others taking place. Ahpra received a high volume of questions from education providers and health services about the impacts of the pandemic on clinical education, students expecting to graduate in 2020 and the future health workforce supply.

Accreditation authorities, National Boards and Ahpra had to move quickly to clarify how our existing accreditation standards enabled flexibility in the ways clinical education requirements could be achieved. We did this through a unique multi-sector collaboration to protect Australia’s future health workforce. This approach enabled many students to continue their studies and graduate to become health practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Government, through the health and education portfolios, Ahpra, National Boards and accreditation authorities, issued national principles for clinical education to encourage and support student placements to continue where this is safe and possible. 

Page reviewed 12/11/2020