Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - September 2015

September 2015

In this edition:

Welcome from the CEO

Welcome to our second AHPRA report for this year. AHPRA report aims to bring you interesting and relevant information about the work of National Boards and AHPRA as part of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). On 1 July 2015, we marked five years of the National Scheme (WA will mark this milestone on 18 October). Over the past five years, the National Boards and AHPRA have worked in partnership to implement the National Scheme to improve our regulatory effectiveness and efficiency and build our knowledge of the common regulatory challenges for all registered professions. We are continuing to implement our Regulatory principles to guide our decision-making, with a strong focus on responding in ways that are proportionate and effectively manage risk to the public.

Our sixth year will undoubtedly bring both new opportunities and challenges, and we look forward to working to continue to deliver a National Scheme that serves the Australian community.

More recently, we have welcomed health ministers’ response to the independent three-year review of the National Scheme, which was released on 7 August. Ministers expressed strong support for the work and achievements of the National Scheme, noted that it was now embedded in the health system and was among the most significant and effective reforms of health profession regulation in Australia and internationally. The National Boards and AHPRA have published our joint submission to the review, and we look forward to building on the review outcomes.

We welcome your feedback on the issues and updates we cover in this newsletter, and on National Boards’ public consultations. If you’d like to have your say, please see these stories to find out how. We publish AHPRA report three times a year. Look out for the next issue in summer 2015.

Martin Fletcher

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Focus on enhancing public safety

Tribunal outcomes and the lessons they can teach

AHPRA publishes media releases and summaries of the outcomes of tribunal and court decisions relevant to health practitioner regulation under the National Scheme. They provide useful and timely reminders about issues that have led to complaints and notifications and tribunal and court action in relation to practitioners. These summaries are the most popular content that we share on Twitter.

Read more: Court and tribunal decisions.

Dental practitioners reminded about the importance of infection control

Following recent media and public interest in infection control standards in dental practice, the Dental Board of Australia launched a campaign to remind dental practitioners about their obligations. Working in partnership with AHPRA, the Board published a fact sheet outlining the infection control requirements and self-audit tool for dental practitioners and tips for dental patients.

The Board also partnered with the Dental Council of NSW to send letters to all registered dental practitioners to remind them of their infection control obligations under the National Law.1

As well as targeting practitioners with information, the Board has published Tips for dental patients to help patients make sure they are getting safe dental care.

1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory.

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New projects and programs

National Board and AHPRA websites are our main link with registrants, applicants for registration, students, employers, government and the public. Last year we got nearly 10 million visits to these websites. We have completed several projects to make information on the website easier to find and read, improve our online services and provide information to new graduates registering for the first time.

While our website is the most important way we publish information, we are developing other ways to ensure that the community, registered practitioners and applicants for registration can be better informed. As part of this work, AHPRA and some National Boards are producing videos that aim to create greater understanding of the National Scheme.

The Podiatry Board recently published a video for graduates of approved programs of study. Initial feedback from the target audience has been positive. The Osteopathy and Pharmacy Boards have similar videos in production which will be broadcast in coming months.

An animated overview of the National Scheme outlines what it means for the public, particularly access to an online register of practitioners and information on how to make a notification (complaint). We are also producing a video about renewing registration for health practitioners including showing the online renewal process step by step.

The Medical Radiation Practice Board is keen for the profession to understand its obligations under the National Scheme and will be promoting a video about this in the lead-up to the annual registration renewal period later this year.

The Psychology Board is publishing a video about the National Psychology Examination soon.

Our social media accounts on Twitter (@ahpra), FacebookLinkedIn and the recently launched YouTube channel have continued to grow and receive feedback from members of the community about a range of topics.

Social media is another way we can share information with practitioners and members of the community, and we look forward to Tweeting with you!

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New standards and processes in effect

Implementing the new international criminal history check process

In February this year, we introduced a new procedure for checking international criminal history, which aims to provide greater public protection.

Under the National Law, National Boards must consider the criminal history of an applicant who applies for registration, including any overseas criminal history. The new approach requires certain applicants and practitioners to apply for an international criminal history check from an AHPRA-approved supplier.

More than 4,200 international criminal history checks were undertaken between February and the end of July this year. From these, ten positive criminal history results were identified from the check. Of these ten, most have been granted registration as the history was not deemed substantial enough to warrant limiting the applicant’s registration, while a small number continue to be assessed by the relevant National Board.

We will be reviewing the implementation of the new checking process after one year. For further information see the International criminal history checks page on our website.

Revised English language standards in effect

Revised registration standards for English language skills are now in place for all registered professions, except Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice.

The revised standards are:

  • a common standard for 10 professions: Chinese medicine, chiropractic, medical radiation, occupational therapy, optometry, osteopathy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry and psychology
  • a standard for dental practitioners
  • a standard for medical practitioners, and
  • a standard for nursing and midwifery.

All of the profession-specific standards share many elements with the common standard. Whenever possible, National Boards seek to work together to develop common or similar standards across professions. The revised standards were developed after a review of the existing standards, which included a public consultation. The consultation report provides a summary of responses, rationale for any changes and sets out the proposed way forward, including areas where further work is planned.

National Boards published the contents of the revised standards and supporting materials before they came into effect to help practitioners understand the new requirements.

These revised standards introduce additional pathways for applicants to demonstrate evidence of their English language skills. Diagrams of how these work and other supporting resources are available on the English language skills registration page.

Revised criminal history standard in effect for all professions

The revised criminal history registration standard is now in force and applies to all applicants for registration and all registered health practitioners (it does not apply to students).

The revised standard introduced very minor amendments, which are expected to have minimal impact on practitioners. No changes were made to the factors National Boards will take into account when considering an applicant's or registrant’s criminal history.

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AHPRA in numbers

AHPRA in numbers: 61,641 registration applications AHPRA in numbers: 9.9 million website views AHPRA in numbers: 3,913 twitter followers and 1,325 facebook likes

AHPRA in numbers: 93.26% of calls were resolved on first contact AHPRA in numbers: 308,790 phone calls AHPRA in numbers: 39,027 website enquiries

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Health workforce update

The data we collect on registered health practitioners are important for heath workforce mapping and planning nationally. You can view our quarterly registration data on our Statistics page. 

Health workforce update: 637,218 registered health practitioners Health workforce update: Top five professions by growth in 2014/15. Midwifery is up 12.3%. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice is up 12.3%. Osteopathy is up 6.8%. Podiatry is up 5.9%. Occupational Therapy is up 5.7%.

Health workforce update: Practitioner growth by state and territory in 2014/15. Up by 1,573 in Western Australia, 46 in Northern Territory, 840 in South Australia, 4,166 in Queensland, 4,222 in New South Wales, 255 in Australian Capital Territory, 4,038 in Victoria and 314 in Tasmania. There were 2,255 additional practitioners with no principal place of practice.

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Overseas regulator visits

Sharing learning opportunities with international regulators

Working with international regulators provides us with an opportunity to learn from others, discuss emerging issues (which are often similar across jurisdictions) and share experiences and insights. This helps improve our approach to regulation in Australia.

Earlier this year, Mr Harry Cayton, Chief Executive of the Professional Standards Authority UK (PSA) visited AHPRA to host workshops and give presentations on various topics relating to effective regulation. His visit included a presentation to staff on emerging issues, health practitioner regulation trends in the UK, the UK approach to accreditation and the concept of right-touch regulation. This work is particularly interesting to us at AHPRA as we focus on embedding a risk-based regulation approach and analysing our data to identify sources and patterns of risk.

Harry also hosted a workshop in Brisbane on the work of the PSA and insights from the UK experience for co-regulatory arrangements in Australia. This was a valuable opportunity for the members of all elements of the new health complaints management system in Queensland to discuss early trends and international lessons learned.

In late August, AHPRA welcomed Michael Guthrie, Director of Policy and Standards at the UK Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) for a month-long visit as part of an exchange partnership between our organisations.

During his visit, Michael will work on a project that investigates how we approach using research and intelligence to inform development of regulatory policy. He will also present models for professional input into regulatory decision-making adopted by UK regulators.

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Your national registers help keep the public safe

The online registers of practitioners publish accurate, up-to-date information about the registration status of all registered health practitioners in Australia. It is an important way the National Scheme helps keep the public safe.

Anyone can check a health practitioner’s registration on our registers. They are always available, free to use, updated continuously and are the only reliable source of information about practitioners’ registration status.

The registers provide details of health practitioners who:

  • have effective registration with no restrictions and cautions, and registration is up to date
  • are on our registers but have restrictions on their practice or have received a caution, or
  • have been suspended or cancelled from our register since 1 July 2010 and are currently not allowed to practise.

The names of health practitioners whose registration has been cancelled under the National Law are published on the register of cancelled practitioners.

Searching the registers

The quickest and easiest way to search is by name and profession. To search for information about a health practitioner, enter 'Family Name, name in which they are registered' or 'Registration Number'. If you can’t find someone on the register it might mean they are not registered. It’s an offence to present yourself as a registered health practitioner in Australia. If you think you know someone who is doing this, let us know immediately.

If you need assistance, see top tips on using the register for public safety, contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495 or complete a web enquiry.

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National Board news

Grandparenting arrangements have expired

Transition arrangements that allowed some practitioners to become registered expired on 1 July 2015. These arrangements were in place for applicants for Chinese medicine (including acupuncturists, Chinese herbal medicine practitioners and Chinese herbal dispensers), occupational therapy, medical radiation practice (including radiographers, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists), and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice.

The grandparenting provisions were designed to ensure that practitioners who were legitimately practising before 1 July 2012 (when the professions became regulated) were not disadvantaged if they had not completed an approved qualification.

From July 2015, the pathway to registration for applicants in all regulated professions is to meet the relevant National Board’s registration standards. For further information, see the media release on AHPRA’s website.

Improvements to supervisor search

Recent improvements to the Psychology Board of Australia’s online Search for a supervisor have resulted in an improved user experience and improved privacy.

The improved online search gives users access to:

  • a new secure messaging system for contacting supervisors
  • a better search results display, and
  • a function that allows for a search of surrounding suburbs within a specified distance.

The online search lists all Board-approved supervisors and search results show whether a supervisor is ‘available’ or ‘not available’ to be contacted. The 200-record limit for search results has been removed and users will see every single match for the selected search criteria.

A new secure messaging system helps to protect supervisors’ privacy by removing email addresses from the website and extra security measures ensure that supervisors receive only genuine enquiries from real people.

Advertising reminder for osteopaths

A number of advertising complaints about osteopaths prompted the Osteopathy Board of Australia to email a special bulletin to practitioners.

Published on its website, the Board’s bulletin drew on examples and advice on what is likely to be acceptable or not acceptable in advertising osteopathy.

A group of senior osteopaths provided advice to the Board in developing the bulletin.

Regulating advertising is designed to protect the public. The Guidelines for advertising of regulated health services and requirements of the National Law are unchanged.

Nursing and midwifery renewal campaign

The 2015 online renewals campaign for nurses and midwives went very smoothly.

  • A total of 368,200 nurses and midwives were invited to renew their registration in 2015. This is approximately 8,000 more nurses and midwives than 2014.
  • There was an increase in the number of nurses and midwives who renewed online, more renewed on time and the associated cost of the renewal campaign was reduced for the fourth year running.
  • Reminders were sent to nurses and midwives at regular intervals. Careful planning of the campaign schedule resulted in savings in printing and postage costs for this reminder letter compared to 2014.
  • In summary:
    • In 2015 ~ 97.5% of the nurses and midwives renewed online (an increase of 1% from 2014).
    • In 2015 ~ 92.8% or 342,000 out of 368,200 had renewed by the start of the late payment period (an increase of 1.3% from 2014).
    • 2,637 practitioners opted not to renew with another 9,610 failing to renew – these practitioners were removed from the register.

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.

Boards also consult regularly on draft registration standards, guidelines and other publications and projects – see our consultations story in this issue to participate in current consultations.

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What’s new in our sector

There are many relevant publications available on the websites of other regulators, related bodies and professional journals, here and overseas. Here are links to several recent ones.

Sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in medicine: Medical Journal of Australia

There is a lot of attention at present on the negative aspects of medical culture, and how to change behaviour, attitudes and institutional responses. Medical Board of Australia Chair, Dr Jo Flynn, AHPRA Agency Management Committee member Professor Merrilyn Walton, and researcher, physician and health lawyer Dr Marie Bismark of the University of Melbourne have all published articles on this topic.

Rethinking regulation: Professional Standards Authority (PSA) UK

The Rethinking regulation report explains why regulation needs to be reformed so that it better supports professionals providing healthcare. It argues that regulation of professionals cannot be changed in isolation but must take account of the places in which they work. It calls for deregulation, less regulation and better regulation. Rethinking regulation makes a series of recommendations intended to reshape how regulation works so that it is able to face the challenges of the future.

Further information is available on the PSA website.

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In conversation with…

Colin Waldron, outgoing National Board Chair

Colin Waldron

Success of the National Scheme is dependent on the continued development of the ‘team spirit’ and open relationship between National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

That’s the view of outgoing Optometry Board of Australia Chair Colin Waldron.

‘The goals of the National Law cannot be achieved without mutual trust and respect, and effective and open communication between the parties involved,’ Mr Waldron said.

‘For successful healthcare reform, National Boards must be aware of public healthcare needs, encourage full participation by the health professions and work together to better understand each other’s professional capabilities and scope of practice.

‘The Optometry Board of Australia has been proactive in this area; and that it is open and approachable should always be a priority.’

Mr Waldron was involved in the early stages of developing the national regulatory scheme while Chair of the Optometrists Board of Queensland under the state-based regulatory system. It was during this time that he was encouraged to apply for the role of National Board Chair.

‘Having experienced some of the challenges of vastly different regulatory requirements across the state and territories I saw the fantastic potential for a national regulatory scheme,’ he said.

Mr Waldron was appointed inaugural Chair of the Optometry Board of Australia in August 2009. His initial goals were ‘administratively focused’ in an environment where the National Boards and AHPRA had to find their feet quickly before implementing the new requirements of national regulation.

‘I often heard the comment, “just jump in and swim like hell”, and we did.

‘We had to familiarise ourselves with vastly different legislation, mould our diverse Board membership into a competent, supportive team and draft the registration standards, codes and guidelines.’

Needless to say, Mr Waldron’s early days as Chair were ‘an exciting challenge’.

‘I believe AHPRA’s transition team, led by Dr Louise Morauta and (former Agency Management Committee Chair) Peter Allen, was an inspiration to the Boards.

‘The scheme starting on time in 2010 was an unbelievable achievement given the short lead-in time and limited administrative staff,’ he said.

‘The Optometry Board was extremely fortunate that leading state and territory regulators were appointed, representing a wide range of practice modalities with extensive experience.’

Mr Waldron said optometry benefited from its professional association championing the National Scheme and senior members were instrumental in gaining unanimous support for the regulatory change.

‘There was substantial criticism and negative reaction to the scheme from various stakeholders that had to be managed and changed,’ he said.

In the early years of implementing the National Scheme, Mr Waldron enjoyed the challenges that arose from the Board’s developing relationship with AHPRA.

‘Acting in the public’s best interest is not just a catchcry; it’s the scheme’s main goal and must be constantly at the forefront of all our work.

‘With every success comes a new challenge, and we can always improve on how we work together to implement the National Scheme.’

Mr Waldron said the most significant factor that has guided the Board in suitable governance and decision-making has been the experience and direction from its community members.

‘From the outset, not only have they influenced the Board to always primarily consider public benefit, but they have also been very experienced in optometry regulation.’

Mr Waldron was successful in securing a second term as Chair of the Optometry Board in 2012.

‘After three and a half years it felt like we were still beginning and both myself and the other Board members felt that the mission was not yet complete,’ he said.

‘Systems were in place and it was time to now look at workforce issues and reform.’

Mr Waldron thinks the most significant change for the profession has been the move towards independent diagnosis, treatment and management of eye disease as primary care eye-care practitioners, in collaboration with medical practitioners and ophthalmologists.

‘Primary eye healthcare is the role of optometry and inherently involves regulatory risk at a high level,’ he said.

‘Public benefit and protection requires management of the highest standards of optometry practice and education, and without independent regulation this would be a serious risk.’

Therapeutic practice was relatively new for optometry when the National Scheme started, but from 1 December 2014 the Board’s general registration standard allows optometrists applying for general registration for the first time to also qualify for an endorsement for scheduled medicines.

‘Despite the challenge of having to work with different drugs and poisons legislation across the states and territories, therapeutic practice is now an integral part of optometry and I’m proud that the Board has achieved this,’ Mr Waldron said.

‘In the near future, all optometrists will be therapeutically endorsed and will be able to fully participate and contribute to eye healthcare reform.’

Mr Waldron will watch with interest as the Optometry Board responds to future challenges.

‘I believe passionately that this progressive regulatory scheme should continue to be strengthened,’ he said.

‘All 14 health practitioner boards are treated equally under the National Law and are therefore able to contribute fully to public healthcare.

‘In my view, it is important to maintain this as the scheme develops, as it was originally envisaged,’ Mr Waldron said. ‘It is important to ensure that co-regulation in New South Wales and Queensland, and different methods of complaint management in jurisdictions, are not confusing for the public.

‘It can complicate the planning and success of any educative program on how to make a complaint about a registered health practitioner – I believe consistent legislation is the answer.’

Mr Waldron said the National Scheme had empowered health professions, which did not have the voice of medicine, to contribute to healthcare to the full extent of their scopes of practice and competencies.

‘It has been an honour to be involved in such a ground-breaking scheme. I will always remain highly interested in its progress as it is reformed and developed to meet the nation’s changing health needs.’

Mr Waldron has been a registered optometrist since 1969. From that time he has been a member of the Queensland branch of Optometry Australia (formerly known as Optometrists Association Australia) and has been a state and national president of the professional association. Mr Waldron was appointed to the Optometrists Board of Queensland in the early 1990s.

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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.

Chinese Medicine Board of Australia draft guidelines for health record keeping: closes Thursday 24 September 2015

Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia draft national examination guidelines: closes Friday 16 October 2015

Psychology Board of Australia consultation on ending the higher degree exemption from sitting the National Psychology Exam: closes Friday 2 October 2015.

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Page reviewed 12/08/2022