We surveyed a random sample of health practitioners and community members for a third year. More than 10,200 practitioners and 2,000 people from the broader community responded. The high levels of general public confidence and trust in Ahpra to keep the public safe that were first benchmarked in 2018 were sustained (over 70%). A total of 73% of the broader community said they trust a National Board and 68% were confident the Board (of which they were aware) was doing everything it could to keep the public safe. Practitioners who expressed trust in Ahpra increased to 58%, and to 63% for trust in National Boards. Perhaps due to community focus on the COVID-19 pandemic for much of 2020, overall knowledge of Ahpra among the broader community dropped to 43% but remained constant among practitioners at 78%.
With a membership representing the professional associations for each of the regulated professions, the PRG met seven times. It discussed consultations, gave feedback to projects and was updated on operational changes across Ahpra. Feedback on policy consultations included a framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious notifications, an update on implementation of policy directions issued by the Health Council, the shared revised Code of conduct preliminary consultation, user testing of advertising compliance and enforcement strategy documents, and revised regulatory principles for the National Scheme.
Ahpra updated PRG members on the National Scheme's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020–2025, National Scheme strategy 2020–2025 and work to improve management of notifications. PRG members shared Ahpra information on their organisations’ websites, with their members and stakeholders and social media networks. Information shared included Taking care podcasts, a public statement on No place for sexism, sexual harassment or violence in healthcare, guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations, the pandemic response sub-register extension and a call for applications to the National Boards. The PRG publishes a communiqué after each of its meetings.
The Community Reference Group (CRG) worked with the Agency Management Committee to strengthen the connection between the two groups. This included revising CRG's terms of reference to put a greater emphasis on its role in amplifying the voice of the community within the National Scheme.
The CRG provided advice and feedback on a range of consultations, including the shared Code of conduct, the tranche 2 amendments to the National Law, the National Boards’ work to support professional practice, Ahpra’s data strategy and the review of the English language skills registration standards.
Members represented the community and consumer view on the various working groups including the Forum of National Registration and Accreditation Chairs and the Accreditation Liaison Group, and nominated a representative for the new independent Accreditation Committee. The CRG publishes a communiqué after each of its meetings.
One year in, important progress has been achieved in implementing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group provided strategic advice during the implementation of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020–2025.
The Wordsmithing working group, a small group of strategy group members, has reviewed and provided feedback to embed cultural safety into profession codes of conduct, accreditation standards and profession guidelines. The group has embedded cultural safety in 15 of the 16 regulated health professions.
In late 2020, the inaugural Ahpra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy 2020–2025 was released. Alongside this strategy, Ahpra welcomed an identified role to lead the implementation of the strategy. The strategy focuses on creating a culturally safe work environment that increases our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and reflects the communities in which we operate and serve.
In April, Ahpra launched its second Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – this time at Innovate level. Our RAP sits under the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020–2025 and is led by Ahpra’s National RAP Working Group as well as local RAP working groups in every state and territory office. The RAP is a framework of practical actions that drives our contribution to reconciliation and guides us toward respectful relationships and meaningful opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Our vision for reconciliation is a healthcare system in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples receive care that is culturally safe and meets their needs. Our vision is for a healthcare system that is also culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners, in any profession, in any setting.
PwC Indigenous Consulting (PIC) started delivering the Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training program in February to 1,400 Ahpra staff, Board and committee members. PIC is providing the program with online and face-to-face components, true to the intentions of the procurement and integrity of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) cultural respect framework, all while adapting to real-time lockdowns and jurisdictional safety measures. By 30 June, 1,159 people had enrolled in the training and 556 participants from ACT, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania had completed it.
The Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training provides participants with knowledge, skills and capabilities to critically reflect on themselves as individuals, and how to identify and respond to racism. Ahpra staff, Board and committee members are required to complete the program and critically reflect on work and Board practices to embed culturally safe practices into the everyday workplace and Board business. The feedback from participants is very positive.
Ahpra maintains a strong working relationship with Commonwealth, state and territory health departments, primarily through its Jurisdictional Advisory Committee.
Ahpra and the National Boards welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on a targeted consultation draft amendment Bill. The Bill proposes reforms to the National Law that have been agreed by Health Ministers to update the guiding principles and objectives of the National Scheme to strengthen public protections, improve governance arrangements and registration processes, and to increase the regulatory responses that are available to respond to risks to the public.
National Boards and Ahpra have contributed to a number of inquiries. Of particular note are:
The Australian Government’s response to the final report of the Royal Commission was published on 11 May. Ahpra and the National Boards will continue to work with the Australian Government as it progresses a new regulatory scheme – National care and support worker regulation. We expect there will be interactions between our schemes and appreciate the opportunity for early engagement with the Australian Government.
National Boards and Ahpra welcomed the invitation from the Commissioners to contribute to a public hearing that examined the education and training of health professionals in relation to the healthcare and treatment of people with cognitive disability.
In May, Ahpra and the National Boards made a joint submission to the inquiry about our administration of the National Scheme to protect the public. We work hard to be transparent about the operations and performance of the National Scheme and do not shy away from public scrutiny. Our submission highlighted improvements that have been made and emphasised our continuous improvement agenda to further strengthen public protections and ensure the scheme is efficient, effective and fair.
Ahpra has continued its work as a recognised World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Health Workforce Regulation. The centre works in partnership to strengthen the capacity and skills of regulators in the Western Pacific Region of WHO.
The Western Paciﬁc Regional Network of Health Workforce Regulators, with members from approximately 20 countries, held three regional network webinars on health workforce regulation topics.
In February, Ahpra's CEO accepted an invitation to join the global WHO Technical Expert Group (TEG) on Health Practitioner Regulation. The TEG is an advisory body that is developing guidance on the design, reform and implementation of good practice health practitioner regulation in member states of WHO.
In June, the Western Pacific Region of WHO hosted a virtual meeting, chaired by Ahpra, to consult with member states on the draft regional framework for strengthening traditional medicine systems.
Ahpra staff have shared in the Council for Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) webinars, discussion groups and podcasts. In September, Ms Kym Ayscough, Ahpra’s Executive Director for Regulatory Operations, completed her term as President of CLEAR.
Ahpra's CEO served as a member of the Management Committee of the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities (IAMRA).
The International Regulatory Expert Advisory Group (REAG), chaired by Ahpra’s CEO, aims to provide and share multi-disciplinary knowledge and expert advice to support the development of strategies and approaches to challenging contemporary regulatory issues.
This year, meetings have centred on developing responses to challenging strategic issues, including the continuing impact of COVID-19, supporting practitioner health and wellbeing, and addressing changing community expectations around diversity, equity and inclusion. Its most recent meeting focused on the role of regulators in addressing the important social issue of racism, including what it means for our own operations and what it means for our regulation of the professions. Outcomes for implementing our scheme and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health strategies include:
The annual All Boards Combined Meeting of the National Scheme was held virtually in March with the theme of Emerging stronger and better together.
The broad context for the meeting was to acknowledge the many ways in which 2020 was a year that was not only unexpected, but also brought to the fore issues that many within the health system had been grappling with for years. When will our next pandemic be and how will we respond when it occurs? How can we work together to quickly and safely respond to the immediate public health crisis, protect our frontline health workers, and ensure the broader sustainability of our health system in both the immediate and longer term?
The year also brought into plain view questions of systemic racism, equity and trust – in access to healthcare and vaccines – and also fundamental questions about the nature of our health system, and our roles, as health practitioners and regulators, in ensuring safe, accessible and equitable health outcomes and care for all.
1Web statistics include staff working remotely as well as external visitors.
2Practitioners also search the register to check the status of their registration.