This year we continued our work to support community access to safe, professional healthcare. We regulated more than 850,000 health practitioners in 16 professions. Aspiring health practitioners have more than 840 approved programs of study. Australia-wide, 18,710 notifications were made about 14,313 health practitioners – the National Boards and Ahpra managed 10,803 of those notifications. Clinical care continues to be the most common concern. Consistent with other years, 1.7% of the registered health workforce received a notification, once again demonstrating that the vast majority of the health workforce practises safely.
Many notifications (over 60%) resulted in a National Board deciding that no further regulatory action was required, taking into account steps that may have already been put in place by a practitioner or their employer.
We work hard to be transparent, fair and accountable. And we know that the complaints process is stressful for notifiers and practitioners. While regulation can be challenging, it plays a critical role in maintaining access to safe, quality healthcare.
We worked with health services when the healthcare system was experiencing changing demands due to outbreaks of COVID-19. This included the pandemic sub-registers, which allow eligible, recently retired health practitioners to help in areas of need.
We continued our work to improve access to safer healthcare for everyone. To better understand barriers to making a complaint or notification, we conducted focus groups with communities who may find us inaccessible. We set up an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Unit at a senior level to progress our cultural safety work. We revised the regulatory principles that underpin our decision making, making it clear that public protection is our paramount objective, and explicitly calling out that we need to consider the potential risk to people vulnerable to harm and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in our decision making. We sought to better support notifiers and witnesses in sexual boundary cases by establishing the Notifier Support Service, staffed by social workers.
We worked with practitioners and employers to support their professional practice. We updated the shared Code of conduct, embedding cultural safety, including greater clarity on clinical governance responsibilities for leaders, and providing more guidance for practitioners and employers to resolve disagreements within the workplace.
Operationally, we worked more often in the digital space, having in the first year of the pandemic converted many previously paper- or face-to-face-dependent processes to online. We worked in and out of our offices, and from home, in response to health directives and advice. Boards and committees met online. This willingness of our workforce and National Boards to adapt and make it work sits alongside a profound commitment to public safety.
We continued to adapt and respond to a changing regulatory environment and improve our own performance. Some of our initiatives:
Mr Martin Fletcher
Chief Executive Officer, Ahpra
Ms Gill Callister PSM
Co-convenor, Forum of National Registration and Accreditation Chairs
Chair, Agency Management Committee, Ahpra
Mr Brett Simmonds
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia