Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Engagement

Engagement

We take actions to improve notifier and practitioner experience. We try to understand how practitioners who have a notification made about them or people who notify us about a practitioner find that experience because we want to make that process easier for them. Things like the communication they have with us, how much time it takes or their understanding of the outcome. We want to improve what we do to make that experience better for everyone.

We have an extensive approach to engagement with a very broad cross-section of external stakeholders. With public safety at the core of what we do, it’s essential that the National Scheme is accessible to the public. This year, a primary aim of our engagement work was to listen to communities who may find us harder to access. 

Most community leaders we spoke with felt there was little knowledge of health complaints systems within their community. Concern about future care, lack of understanding of the system and the rights of consumers, as well as cultural beliefs were commonly noted as barriers to making a complaint or notification. 

It’s not easy to raise the complaint directly with the GP or health professional in our culture, it’s not easy to say that ‘you’re doing a bad job’, that sort of thing ... In our culture it’s not easy to give feedback directly to the person doing a bad job. 
Participant, Vietnamese focus group 

When asked how they would respond to a poor or unsafe experience of healthcare, most focus group participants said they would not complain. 

I choose queer-friendly doctors. If I can’t find them locally, sometimes I make the 1,000 km roundtrip drive to Perth to find them. 
Participant, LGBTQIA+ focus group 

The emerging themes about trust, clear information and the importance of signalling and providing a safe experience inform Ahpra’s work to ensure accessibility for all communities.

We surveyed a random sample of health practitioners for the fourth consecutive year, hearing from 14,551 respondents across the registered professions. We found a strong association between practitioners’ understanding of our work and their sentiment toward us: practitioners who rated their understanding higher tended to have more positive views. 

We also used a machine learning technique called topic modelling to explore themes of trust and distrust across the thousands of free text responses to the survey. Topic modelling clusters similar words or phrases to reveal patterns in qualitative data. We found that distrust was coloured heavily by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that trust related to statements about the perceived impartiality, value of work, and quality of people within Ahpra and the National Boards. 

We are using the findings of this survey to develop a more comprehensive five-year plan for research that will support activities to strengthen trust and confidence in our work.

Ahpra released an updated Service charter, which identifies high-level principles that guide our work and help us meet our vision for communities to have trust and confidence in regulated health practitioners. 

This charter is our commitment to you. It is the standard of service you can expect from us.

We actively engage with people by phone, through our website, social media, and by letter and email. Since COVID-19 we see people face-to-face less often. 

We consult extensively. We talk and listen to practitioners, members of the public, governments, professional associations, community groups and the media. 

The Ahpra website was viewed more than 29 million times. The most frequently visited section was ‘Registration’ with more than 13 million unique page views, then ‘Online services’ with more than 2 million unique views. The Register of practitioners was the most popular individual page with almost 8 million unique views, followed by the home page with more than 4.5 million unique views. 

We published 617 news items, including 37 media releases. 

We responded to 481 media enquiries. 

Our national Customer Service team answered an average of 766 telephone calls and responded to 278 web enquiries each business day. Compared with the previous year, calls were down by 9% and web enquiries were up by 24%. Almost one-third of callers opted to use the call-back service, meaning they were able to retain their place in the queue without waiting on hold. 

We published 18 episodes of our Taking care podcast. The theme that guided this year was ‘The patient voice: Opportunities for safer healthcare’. We had more than 23,500 listens (up 11% from last year), with an average of 65 per day (up 19%). 

We published 61 National Board newsletters, with an average open rate of 63.2%. 

Our social media posts were seen more than 3 million times and received 135,109 interactions (likes, shares and comments). We increased our audience across all platforms, with 106,453 LinkedIn followers, 77,715 Facebook interactions (likes, comments, views, shares and clicks), 11,416 Twitter followers and 2,798 Instagram followers.

We made significant progress in the second year of implementing this strategy. 

Health Strategy Group 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group identified the need to change its Terms of reference. Key proposals include partnering with the National Health Leadership Forum – a self-determining external group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health bodies – a membership change, and delineating operational activity from strategic. 

Increased participation 
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Unit was established in August with a new identified National Director role, affirming our commitment to supporting Indigenous leadership and knowledge. 

The National Boards committed to funding the recruitment of seven identified roles across Ahpra to lead key project deliverables. Targeted recruitment campaigns also resulted in the appointment of 13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board and committee members. 

Embedding cultural safety 

A working group provided feedback on embedding cultural safety into 24 key documents, including profession guidelines, accreditation standards, policies and strategies. 

Cultural safety plans were developed for each area of Ahpra, focusing on implementing the goals of the Strategy and embedding learnings from Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training into the daily practice of staff. This helps share accountability and act on our commitment to culturally safe practice. 

Employment strategy 

Progress was made in the priority area of attracting and recruiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates. Recruitment, selection and appointment procedures were updated, and a new policy was implemented that allows the application of special measures provisions within various anti-discrimination laws. Relationships were established with Indigenous recruitment agencies and job boards and seven identified roles were created. 

Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 

All commitments are on track to deliver Ahpra’s first Innovate-level RAP. There was a significant increase in engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and an increased expenditure with Indigenous businesses. Ahpra partnered with Supply Nation to change the way purchases are made and formalised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses as preferred suppliers. 

Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training 

The Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training includes eight hours of online self-paced learning and an eight-hour face-to-face workshop. 

The challenge over the past 12 months was upholding the integrity of the delivery of the training while managing the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and travel limitations. The success of the training is largely attributed to the adaptability and flexibility of the suppliers, PwC Indigenous Consulting, working in partnership with Ahpra. 

The impact of the training can be captured in the feedback received. 

'Being an immigrant, I am no stranger to racism, but hearing the experiences of our facilitators and their families was confronting. Still, it emphasised why all of us must be aware of the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and how we can be allies. Statutory Appointments identified some immediate changes that can be made to Board and committee application forms.' 
Staff member 

'The training was an amazing and insightful experience. The personal reflections of the facilitators added to my sense of urgency, and I heard a clear message to do more than feel angry and guilty about the racism against First Nations people and disappointment with my school curriculum. I will pay greater attention to ensuring Finance and Risk eliminates systemic racism from our systems and processes.' 
Staff member

Professions Reference Group 

Chaired by Mr Nello Marino from the Australian Podiatry Association, the Professions Reference Group (PRG) met six times. It brings together professional associations for each of the regulated health professions. It provided feedback on the revised Regulatory Principles for Ahpra, the new-look Register of practitioners, the use of the title ‘surgeon’, the review of the regulation of registered health practitioners in cosmetic surgery, and the partnership for patient safety (our joint project with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care). 

Ahpra updated PRG members on our COVID-19 surge workforce response, the start of the Notifier Support Service, the health consumer complaints process, the proposed legislative amendments to the National Law, updates on our accreditation work, and fee setting in the National Scheme. 

Community Advisory Council 

Ahpra worked with the then Community Reference Group (CRG) to amplify the voice of the community, and revise the CRG’s terms of reference to take a more proactive involvement in the National Scheme and ensure a diverse and inclusive membership. As a result, the CRG was renamed the Community Advisory Council (CAC). 

Four new members were recruited in December and there are now two members who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Ms Patricia Hall was appointed Chair starting 1 January, sharing a transition arrangement with Mr Mark Bodycoat as co-Chair until June. Mr Bodycoat had chaired the CRG since its inception in 2013. 

The CAC provided important advice on our work to enhance the Register of practitioners, the review by governments of use of the title ‘surgeon’ by medical practitioners, regulation of health practitioners in cosmetic surgery, Ahpra’s revised privacy policy, and the Code of conduct. Members also represented the views of the community and consumers on many reference and working groups.

Ahpra maintains a strong working relationship with the Australian, state and territory health departments, primarily through its Jurisdictional Advisory Committee. 

National Law amendments 

In February, Health Ministers agreed to progress amendments that would strengthen public protection, improve registration processes and strengthen the governance of the National Scheme. The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 was introduced into the Queensland Parliament by the Honourable Yvette D'Ath, Minister for Health and Ambulance Services on 11 May. 

Inquiries and reviews 

  • Ahpra and the National Boards actively engaged with the Senate Community Affairs References Committee at the 'Senate Inquiry into the administration of registration and notifications by Ahpra and related entities', including appearing before the Committee on several occasions and responding to multiple requests for information. The Committee delivered its final report in April. Ahpra already had work underway about several of the recommendations. We work hard to be transparent and we value public scrutiny. 
  • Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia commissioned an independent review of the regulation of health practitioners in cosmetic surgery. It aimed to improve understanding of barriers preventing consumers, practitioners or their employees raising concerns about unsafe practice or unsatisfactory outcomes. 

As a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Health Workforce Regulation, Ahpra works in partnership to strengthen the capacity and skills of regulators in the Western Pacific Region of WHO. In February, Ahpra was redesignated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for a further four years. 

Ahpra leads the Western Pacific Regional Network of Health Workforce Regulators, with members from approximately 20 countries. We held three regional network webinars on important health workforce regulation topics. 

 
 
 
Page reviewed 22/11/2022