Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - December 2016

December 2016

In this edition:

Welcome from the CEO

Welcome to our final AHPRA report for this year.

In this edition, we cover highlights from our Annual report 2015/16. More than 657,000 health practitioners are now registered as part of Australia’s national registration and accreditation scheme, representing a growth in numbers of 20,000 more registered health practitioners over the past year.

We also report on two international regulatory conferences in which we participated. The first was the twelfth IAMRA International Conference on Medical Regulation, co-hosted by AHPRA and the Medical Board of Australia in Melbourne in September. More than 490 participants from more than 40 countries gathered with one aim: to make a difference to patient safety through regulation.

Many other updates are provided on our current projects and programs, and as always we welcome your feedback on the topics we cover in this newsletter. Look out for the next AHPRA report in the first half of 2017.

I would like to wish you all a happy and peaceful festive season.

Martin Fletcher

Welcome from the CEO.

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What’s new?

Annual report 2015/16

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner workforce is the fastest-growing regulated health profession in Australia. AHPRA launched a National Restrictions Library, which currently contains 73 restrictions (conditions and undertakings) used across all regulatory functions. 11 Cases involving the misuse of a protected title, sucessfully prosecuted before the courts. In 2015/16, 93% of health practitioners were 'satisfied to very satisfied' with AHPRA' customer service team. 94% of practitioners completed the online workforce survey that was sent out on renewal. In 2015/16, 153,710 students registered as studying in Australia to become health practitioners.

Visit the AHPRA Annual Report site for 2015/16.

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Focus on enhancing public safety

Acting and learning - court and tribunal outcomes

Court and tribunal outcomes are independent and public. We publish summaries of these outcomes, and links to the findings, on the AHPRA and National Boards websites, as well as in our newsletters. These can help practitioners see through the eyes of the person who raised the concern. They also help practitioners understand where a colleague breached the National Law by practicing unsafely or unethically. Importantly, they also show patients and members of the public what acceptable and unacceptable levels of care and behaviour are.

In 2016, we published 81 tribunal or court outcomes as a news item or media release on AHPRA and/or National Board websites, including:

  • Medical Board of Australia (39) 
  • Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (19) 
  • Psychology Board of Australia (14) 
  • Pharmacy Board of Australia (3) 
  • Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (2) 
  • Dental Board of Australia (2) 
  • Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia (1), and 
  • Occupational Therapy Board of Australia (1).

This can also be broken down by the state and territory location of the tribunal. There are independent tribunals in each state and territory. AHPRA can prosecute individuals in some instances and these cases are heard by the relevant Magistrate’s Court.

  • Queensland (20) 
  • Victoria (20) 
  • Western Australia (16) 
  • South Australia (10) 
  • New South Wales (3) 
  • Northern Territory (5) 
  • Australian Capital Territory (5) 
  • Tasmania (2)

Our Annual report 2015/16 tells the story of our tribunal performance. Out of 175 National Board matters decided by tribunals, 84.6 per cent (148) resulted in disciplinary action, 10.3 per cent (18) resulted in no further action, and 5.1 per cent (9) were withdrawn and did not proceed.

Below are some of the examples of tribunal outcomes from the past six months. For more information, follow the link in the heading, go to the Court and tribunal decisions page on the AHPRA website or access the full tribunal decisions on the Australian Legal Information Institute’s (AustLII) site.

Medical practitioner disqualified from registering for ten years and fined $20,000

The Medical Board of Australia’s referred Dr Robert Wolman to the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia on 10 December 2014 after it received notifications alleging Dr Wolman had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact, and/or had inappropriate sexual relationships, with female patients. During the course of the tribunal proceedings, Dr Wolman surrendered his registration as a medical practitioner and admitted he had behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct. The parties agreed to settle the matter at a mediation hearing on 10 June 2016. On 22 June 2016, the tribunal ordered that Dr Wolman be reprimanded, fined $20,000, be ordered to pay the Board’s legal costs and be disqualified from reapplying for registration as a medical practitioner for 10 years.

AHPRA prosecutes social worker for claiming to be a psychologist

AHPRA, on behalf of the Psychology Board of Australia, prosecuted Ms Sermin Baycan, a qualified social worker. Ms Baycan pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after AHPRA brought charges against her for using the title ‘psychologist’ and holding out as being a registered health practitioner under sections 113 and 116 of the National Law.

Ms Baycan has never held registration as a psychologist, however, it was alleged that she purported to use the title ‘psychologist’ at two medical clinics in Victoria between May 2015 and June 2015 by accepting referrals under mental health plans. Ms Baycan pleaded guilty to 14 charges and was ordered to pay a fine of $12,000 and costs of $20,200 to AHPRA, with no conviction recorded.

Psychologist reprimanded and disqualified for professional misconduct

The Psychology Board of Australia referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in October 2015, after a notification was received by AHPRA concerning Mr Mark Tunstall’s conduct as a registered psychologist, namely entering into a relationship with a client. The tribunal found that Mr practitioner had engaged in professional misconduct and reprimanded him, disqualifying him from applying for registration for 18 months. VCAT took into account Mr Tunstall’s admissions, the changes in his life, and the time that has elapsed since the offending behaviour. It, however, pointed out the he had not taken any further education in the field of psychology, nor sought professional help to analyse his own shortcomings that would be required to support any application for future registration.

Fake nurse convicted and ordered to pay over $40,000

AHPRA, on behalf of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, prosecuted a Darwin man in two separate legal actions, one in Queensland and one in Western Australia, for claiming to be a qualified nurse. Mr Nicholas Crawford was convicted and fined a total of $33,500 for falsely claiming to be a registered nurse and ordered to pay an additional $8,250 in costs. Falsely claiming to be a registered health practitioner is an offence under the National Law.

Pharmacist disqualified from applying for registration for three years

The Pharmacy Board of Australia referred pharmacist Mr Ali Kozanoglu to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal because of allegations that he had engaged in professional misconduct by trafficking a drug of dependence and subsequently receiving criminal convictions for this conduct. Mr Kozanoglu had been convicted of drug trafficking at the County Court of Victoria. The tribunal reprimanded him and he was been disqualified by the tribunal from applying for registration for three years. The tribunal found that Mr Kozanoglu had engaged in professional misconduct on the basis that his conduct leading to his convictions, and the convictions in themselves, amounted to conduct substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience.

Advertising regulated health services - getting it right for consumers

In our last issue, we talked about how we deal with complaints about advertising offences and the legal obligations that apply to all advertisers of regulated health services. Regulated health services includes all services provided by, or usually provided by, a registered health practitioner in the National Scheme.

Supporting the public to make informed healthcare choices with the right information at the right time is extremely important and advertising can heavily influence a patient’s decision-making around their healthcare needs.

Understanding what is and is not acceptable in advertising can be challenging for health practitioners. We recognise the complex environment within which health practitioners and other advertisers of regulated health services make decisions about their advertising. However, the National Law holds advertisers accountable for the way they advertise regulated health services.

To help registered health practitioners and others who advertise regulated health services1 understand their obligations, we have published further information on advertising on National Board websites. This new information focuses on advertising therapeutic claims and sends a clear message that if in doubt about a claim, leave it out of your advertising. Further information is being developed as part of a new section on the AHPRA website dedicated to advertising resources for consumers and anyone who advertises a regulated health service.

Consumers need to know what they can expect from advertising of regulated health services

Advertising of regulated health services should be easy to understand and accurate. Any claims made that certain treatment can help a health condition or a person’s general health needs to be based on acceptable evidence. Overall, the advertising should provide consumers with the right information so they can make informed decisions about their healthcare.

Unacceptable advertising includes advertising that:

  • might be false, misleading or deceptive. What practitioners can say in their advertising depends on whether there is acceptable evidence to support their claims. Most health practitioners advertise responsibly, but there are some who make claims that are not backed up by enough evidence 
  • offers of a gift or discount related to the health service that do not stipulate terms and conditions 
  • includes stories from other patients who say that they were happy with their treatment or that the treatment worked for them. These are called testimonials and the law says practitioners can’t use them to advertise 
  • makes the consumer think a certain treatment can help them in a way that may not be realistic or possible, for example, claiming it can cure cancer, or 
  • encourages the consumer to seek treatment they may not need, such as saying they need regular appointments just to stay healthy.

If you have concerns about advertising, please contact AHPRA.

Improving the complaints process for notifiers and practitioners

Our ongoing focus on improving how we communicate has resulted in clearer website content and brochures being developed in partnership with state and territory health complaints entities (HCEs).

The new web content was developed with input from past complainants and practitioners who have been the subject of a notification (complaint). Through these consultations, and supporting the feedback from our Community Reference Group, it became clear that ‘notification’ is not commonly understood by the broader community. The new web content therefore uses ‘complaint or concern’ instead, and features visual aids, such as flow charts and diagrams to help make the information more meaningful. To view the updated content, see the Complaints or concerns section.

In response to the review of the National Scheme, a comprehensive program of work has been led by a working group involving AHPRA, the National Boards and health complaints entities (HCEs) in each state and territory. This work included initiating an information campaign about the roles and responsibilities of AHPRA, the National Boards and the HCEs, including developing nationally consistent, plain English brochures to describe the roles of each state/territory entity in NT, SA, Tas and WA to help anyone who wants to make a complaint about a practitioner. The working group is planning a version of the brochure for Victoria for completion in 2017. The brochures are available under Guides and fact sheets.

1The National Law applies to all those who advertise regulated health services and not just registered health practitioners. This includes organisations or businesses that provide a regulated health service.

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New projects and programs

National public awareness campaign rolls out

Be safe in the knowledge. The third and final stage of the campaign to increase awareness of national registration ran from June to August 2016. ‘Be safe in the knowledge…you’re seeing a registered health practitioner’ was designed to raise awareness about the importance of seeing registered health practitioners (for the 14 regulated professions) and how to check if a practitioner is registered. People are also encouraged to notify AHPRA and the National Boards if they have a concern about an individual practitioner and their service. The campaign was primarily delivered through social media channels and local newspapers. An information brochure and Avant Card were also developed and distributed nationally.

The campaign started in December 2015 with ‘Know your obligations’, for employers of health practitioners with a focus on their legal obligations when recruiting and managing practitioners, and the importance of staying up to date with the status of each employee’s registration. The second phase, the ‘Not-so-small print’ campaign, focused on informing registered health professionals about their obligations under the scheme, including mandatory reporting and complying with health advertising guidelines.

This was our first national campaign to raise awareness of the scheme and the role of AHPRA and the Boards in protecting the public. We are really pleased with the outcomes from the campaign, which through a multi-channel approach had a reach of nearly 8 million across Australia. The ‘Be safe in the knowledge’ Avant card, for example, was distributed to over 1,600 locations to reach a potential weekly audience of 5.9 million. The ‘Be safe in the knowledge’ digital display had over 152,000 unique views with a click-through rate 89 per cent higher than the government benchmark. These activities also boosted the growth of our online community on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. From January to June 2016 our following on Facebook almost tripled, with 10,433 likes by June.

In 2017 we are looking to extend on the public education component of the campaign with a focus on health literacy. In addition to a general campaign about the standards of care you can expect when seeing a registered health practitioner, more targeted communications will be developed for people with lower health literacy levels.

Making it easier to renew online

This year we reviewed the information we send to practitioners who need to renew their registration. To do this well, we consulted some experts - registered health practitioners - and asked them how we could make the information clearer, easier to follow and more helpful.

The resulting revised correspondence, together with renewal information videos, have helped to drive an increase in the number of health practitioners applying to renew their registration online, setting new benchmarks for online renewal rates in 2016.

Almost all registered practitioners renewed their registration on time and online.

  • Of the more than 370,000 nurses and midwives due to renew their registration by 31 May, 94 per cent renewed on time - 98 per cent of those renewed online. 
  • Of the more than 99,000 medical practitioners due to renew their registration by 30 September, 99 per cent renewed on time - 99 per cent of those renewed online. 
  • Of the more than 163,700 health practitioners due to renew by 30 November, 99 per cent renewed on time - 99 per cent online.

After the nursing and midwifery renewal period, we surveyed nurses and midwives to see if they found the information we sent them helpful. We were very pleased that 95 per cent of respondents said the email reminder instructions were perfectly or mostly understood. This was backed up by our customer service team who recorded noticeably fewer incoming telephone inquiries (17 per cent less) and web inquiries (30 per cent less) about the nursing and midwifery renewal process compared with last year. This means registrants could renew with minimal hassle and did not need any additional information.

This great outcome was also supported by new videos AHPRA and the National Boards have published that explain how to renew online ahead of each renewal campaign. The videos are available to watch on the websites of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, the Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA. They explain how to access online renewal, what a practitioner must declare about their previous 12 months’ practice, how to pay the registration fee and what happens next.

This is a fantastic result and reflects the collaborative approach AHPRA took to this work when we sought feedback from registrants during initial development of the refreshed renewal correspondence.

The Chiropractic Board of Australia also took advantage of the renewal period to publish vodcasts (videos plus audio podcasts) on its recently revised registration standards. The Board created these resources to help chiropractors understand the revised standards and their obligations to meet them, speaking directly to practitioners about what they need to do at the time they are renewing their registration, as the revised registration standards now apply.

Smoothing the path from graduation to registration

This is a busy period for registration as around 21,354 applicants graduating from Australian educational programs apply for registration in their chosen profession. We recently improved the checklist for graduating students applying for registration and have introduced an online application tracker for checking the progress of their applications. More than 9,000 applicants for graduate registration have used the tracker since it was launched in October.

The reviewed checklist makes it easier to see what information is needed and the steps to having their application finalised. As with the review of the renewal reminders (see the article above), we consulted directly with graduates to make sure our changes were for the better. It is important that we get complete information so that applicants can be assessed as quickly as possible.

A new service for education providers is also making the path towards registration smoother for graduating students. Our online portal for education providers to securely upload lists of students who have successfully completed their courses makes it easier and safer to share this important information.

Students and graduates of occupational therapy and optometry also had additional information via videos to help them apply for registration. These videos explain health practitioner obligations under the National Scheme and how students can apply for registration online four to six weeks before graduating. Similar videos are also available on the pharmacy and podiatry boards’ websites. All videos are available to watch on AHPRA’s YouTube channel.

The Accreditation Systems Review

Accreditation is an important part of the National Scheme. Accreditation functions include:

  • developing accreditation standards and recommending them to the relevant National Board for approval 
  • accrediting and monitoring education providers and programs of study, and 
  • assessing overseas-qualified practitioners to determine whether they can practise in Australia.

Accreditation authorities carry out these functions as needed within each of the professions.

Following the final report of the Independent review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professions, the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council (AHWMC) requested that a further independent review of accreditation systems in the National Scheme be commissioned. This Accreditation Systems Review has now begun and will identify what reforms, if any, are needed in three key areas of accreditation:

  • the cost effectiveness of the accreditation system, including streamlining its processes 
  • ensuring the accreditation system effectively supports innovation in clinical training and interprofessional learning, and 
  • whether the existing accreditation arrangements and their interaction with other parts of the healthcare system are able to produce a health workforce that consumers will need.

An independent reviewer, Professor Mike Woods, has been appointed by the AHWMC to lead the review, with support from a small project team based in Melbourne. You can keep up to date with the review’s progress on the COAG website and can contact the review team by emailing

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Sharing learning opportunities with international regulators

IAMRA International Conference on Medical Regulation: an outstanding team effort

AHPRA and the Medical Board of Australia hosted a very successful 12th IAMRA, the International Conference on Medical Regulation, in Melbourne in September. The overarching theme of the conference was ‘Medical regulation - making a difference’, a theme which is central to the work of the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) and AHPRA.

More than 490 participants from more than 40 countries gathered with one aim; to make a difference to patient safety through regulation. The three-day conference featured over 105 presentations and 25 international keynote speakers. The Board and AHPRA were well represented, with a number of staff presenting, chairing and participating in panel sessions, or speaking to delegates about our work at the information booth.

For further information, see the IAMRA website.

AHPRA at the CLEAR 2016 Annual Education Conference

AHPRA presented three sessions at the CLEAR 2016 Annual Education Conference, along with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

CLEAR (the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation) is an association of individuals, agencies and organisations that comprise the international community of professional and occupational regulation. Their Annual Education Conference is attended by more than 600 members from across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

In 2017, AHPRA will host CLEAR’s International Congress on Professional and Occupational Regulation in Melbourne.

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AHPRA in numbers

 53.7 million page views from June 2016 to June 2016.  65,274 applications received across all professions from June 2015 to June 2016.  10,082 notifications from June 2015 to June 2016.

11.2 million visits to the AHPRA website from June 2015 to June 2016.  5,658 followers. That's a 17% increase from June 2015 to June 2016.  11,729 likes on Facebook. That's a 18% increase from June 2015 to June 2016.

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Health workforce update

The information we collect about registered health practitioners provides a unique and important data set for heath workforce mapping and planning nationally. You can view our quarterly registration data on our Statistics page. 

652,786 registered health practitioners as at 30 Sep 2016.  Top professions by growth. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner up 55%. Midwife up 10%. Chinese medicine practitioner up 7%. From June 2016 to Sep 2016.

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Research news

How analysis of unique regulatory data delivers improved outcomes

In August, some of Australia’s leading health and regulatory minds met to discuss the latest on Australia’s globally unique system for regulating health practitioners and how future work could result in safer healthcare for all of us.

Hosted by the National Boards and AHPRA, the 2016 Research Summit was attended by more than 220 delegates who gathered to talk about the next frontiers for developing our evidence base to improve the way we regulate. The theme of the summit was patient safety through risk-based regulation and presenters discussed a range of topics, but at the heart of discussions was how to contribute to safer care for patients and health consumers.

The inaugural summit provided an excellent opportunity for the exchange of expertise and ideas between regulatory staff, experts in safety and quality in healthcare, health practitioners and leading health and medical researchers.

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National Board news

Publications and projects roundup

The National Boards publish regular e-newsletters and communiqués on their activities, which you can read on their websites. Recent publications and projects are listed below.

All Boards

AHPRA and the National Boards and have published the health profession agreements (HPAs) for 2015/16.

National Boards announced practitioner registration fees for 2016/17, including four Boards that have reduced fees, four that have frozen fees and four that have limited fee increases to no more than indexation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia

Online renewal campaign, including video and media releases.

Chinese Medicine Board of Australia

Guidelines for safe Chinese herbal medicine practice coming into effect next year.

Revised Terms of Reference for Policy, Planning and Communications Committee.

New guidelines for patient health records.

Nomenclature compendium of commonly used Chinese Herbal medicines updated.

Chiropractic Board of Australia

Published vodcasts to support practitioners’ renewal on the revised registration standards.

AHPRA and the Chiropractic Board of Australia Advertising Forum.

Dental Board of Australia

Public consultation paper released on the proposed entry level competencies for endorsement for conscious sedation.

Tips for patients video launched.

Medical Board of Australia

Report on medical complaints process noted in news item.

Signed up to the NSW Health Statement of Agreed Principles on a respectful culture in medicine.

Data from specialist medical colleges on the specialist pathway published.

Revised registration standards for all medical practitioners and new cosmetic guidelines, took effect on 1 October 2016.

Independent review on the use of chaperones to protect Australian patients.

Consultations on revalidation.

AHPRA and Medical Board host the 12th conference of the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities.

Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia

Form requesting partial exemption from continuing professional development requirements published.

Webinar for new graduates.

Changes to supervised practice assessment reports.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia

Position on anti-vaccination promoters and vaccination published.

Call for applications for appointment to the Northern Territory Board of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Privately practising midwives who may be affected by changes to Vero Insurance written to.

Appointment of provider to deliver national health support service for nurses and midwives.

Occupational Therapy Board of Australia

Webinar for new graduates

Optometry Board of Australia

Victorian Optometrists Training and Education (VOTE) Trust grant applications opened.

New information for optometry students and graduates published.

Osteopathy Board of Australia

Bulletin on further information on advertising therapeutic claims for osteopaths and advertising obligations information published.

Pharmacy Board of Australia

Continuing professional development journey webinar.

Physiotherapy Board of Australia

Information on advertising obligations published.

Podiatry Board of Australia

Consultation paper on a proposed revised endorsement for scheduled medicines registration standard and related guidelines released.

Psychology Board of Australia

Sydney public forum September 2016.

Supervisor training providers invited to apply for Board approval.

Public consultation on a proposed guideline for transitional programs for overseas-trained psychologists.

Call for applications for appointment to the ACT/TAS/VIC Regional Board of the Psychology Board of Australia, and health, performance and professional standards hearing panels. Applications closed in September 2016.

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Getting to know….

Elizabeth (Libby) Kosmala OAM, Physiotherapy Board community member and gold medallist

The Physiotherapy Board of Australia have a world-record-holding Paralympian and Commonwealth Games medallist in their midst, Elizabeth (Libby) Kosmala OAM.

Competing over 40 years of Paralympics, Libby has won 13 Paralympics medals for shooting and swimming, including nine gold, three silver and one bronze. She also won medals in archery, foil fencing, pentathlon and swimming at the 1970 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Edinburgh.

In September, Libby competed in her 12th Paralympics Games in Rio.

Libby lists her career highlights as the four gold and four world records at the 1984 Games, and gold and bronze at the 2002 World Championships. She says her greatest moment over the 40 years of competing in Paralympics is winning her first gold at Toronto in 1976.

‘For every sportsperson – whether they are disabled or able-bodied – it is the day that counts. It’s whether you wake up and you are ready for whatever competition you are going for. I did my very best for myself and Australia and the Australian team,’ Libby said.

When asked, Libby says the key to sporting success is simple.

‘Enjoy life, thank God for all you’ve got in life because everyone has good things and everyone has challenges they need to overcome. And most important is to keep healthy and advise others to sleep well, eat well and exercise,’ she said.

‘I am 74 years young and I think I am very lucky and honoured, and thank God every day for my good health. I think I have been able to achieve so much success because I have had a supportive husband’, Libby says. At the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games, both she and her husband, Stan, won gold medals – for shooting and lawn bowl, respectively.

In 1985, Libby was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to air rifle shooting. In 2000 Libby received an Australian Sports Medal and in 2001 a Centenary Medal.

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Have your say on National Board consultations

We are committed to engaging with our stakeholders and taking into account their views and input. We welcome your feedback on the National Boards’ current public consultations.

Dental Board of Australia consultation on proposed entry level competencies for conscious sedation endorsement. Closes: 13 January 2017. Find out more.

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Page reviewed 12/08/2022