Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Summer 2022
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Summer 2022

From the CEO

Welcome to our summer 2022 update. We’re bringing you the latest news from the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, covering topics to support safe and professional practice.

Thank you for your support during the past year and our best wishes to everyone for a safe and relaxing festive season.

Martin Fletcher

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Supporting the health workforce

Health workforce boosted in another challenging year: our annual report

There are now more registered health practitioners in every state and territory as highlighted in our latest annual report. The report tells the story of our progress, performance and impact to support the health workforce over 2021/22.

Key points

  • There were 852,272 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions, an increase of 26,552 (3.2%) on last year.
  • This includes 20,781 health practitioners on the pandemic sub-register which offered a surge workforce for the health and aged care system response to COVID-19.
  • We revised our regulatory principles, piloted a new, social worker-staffed support service for notifiers, and worked with National Boards to update Codes of conduct.
  • We strengthened our Community Advisory Council to ensure a strong voice for the public in all our work.
  • National Boards continued to provide funding to several practitioner support services including Dental Practitioner Support, Drs4Drs, Nurse and Midwife Support and Pharmacists’ Support Service.

There was a steady increase in notifications raising concerns about the conduct, performance, or impairment of a registered health practitioner. However, over 60% of these notifications did not require regulatory action, with practitioners or their employers taking steps to resolve the issue. More than 70% of the notifications we closed were closed on average within six months.

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Smoothing the registration pathway for overseas-trained practitioners

Pressures on the health workforce highlight the need to get internationally qualified applicants registered and into the workforce as quickly and safely as possible. Our registration requirements for practitioners who have qualified overseas, or in Australia, aim to be robust and proportionate and help assure the public that their practitioner is safe to practise in Australia.

We have published new resources offering clearer information for international health practitioners looking to work in Australia. We have also reduced timeframes to safely approve fully complete international registration applications to meet critical demand.

International health worker registration numbers are rising to pre-pandemic levels, supporting a surge in graduates and bolstering Australia’s largest ever health workforce:

  • internationally trained doctor arrivals have climbed back to pre-pandemic levels (2,985), and
  • internationally qualified nurse and midwife numbers have soared following a recent surge in applications (4,629).

A record 42,056 new graduate practitioners have also been registered to work, bringing the total health workforce to more than 850,000.

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Updates to the National Scheme Strategy support accessible healthcare

The National Scheme Strategy outlines the vision, purpose, values and strategic objectives of Ahpra and the National Boards. It is reviewed each year to ensure it is responsive to changes in the communities we serve, and in the health and policy landscape.

This year’s updates include better defining one of our key strategic objectives, so that it becomes: Strengthened contribution to accessible and sustainable healthcare.

Work is underway on a National Scheme Workforce Strategy to support our focus on accessible healthcare. The strategy will incorporate initiatives to improve skills and qualifications recognition, working closely with colleges, governments, accreditation authorities and other stakeholders.

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Supporting safe and professional practice

Changes to the National Law prioritise public safety

In the widest-ranging reform to health practitioner regulation since the National Scheme was established in 2010, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2022 passed into law in October.

The reforms respond to various independent reviews into the operation and governance of the National Scheme and follow multiple rounds of jurisdiction-led stakeholder consultation.

The Act contains over 30 wide-ranging reforms focused on public safety, including recognising cultural safety and the elimination of racism as a guiding principle and objective of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law).

The reforms reflect Health Ministers’ commitment to continually improve the National Scheme to ensure it provides protection for the public in a responsive, accountable and sustainable way.

Main reforms

  • That protection of the public and public confidence in the safety of services provided by registered health practitioners and students is the paramount guiding principle for the National Scheme.
  • A new objective and guiding principle to support a culturally safe health workforce that is responsive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their health.
  • Reforms that will strengthen governance and public protection including interim prohibition orders and public statements to warn the public in cases of serious risk.
  • Increased penalties for advertising breaches, reflecting the serious risk that false and misleading advertising can cause. The ban on testimonials remains in place.

Ahpra and National Boards have begun the considerable work to implement the reforms. To support the rollout, some changes start immediately while others have a delayed start to be decided by governments. This is to ensure the necessary updates to systems, policies, and procedures are in place and any required consultation.

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Making cosmetic surgery safer: latest reforms

Our ongoing work is making the cosmetic surgery industry safer with action on reforms across a number of areas.

One important initiative is our Cosmetic Surgery Hotline which aims to encourage both patients and practitioners to safely report concerns. To date, the hotline has received 84 calls, generated 15 investigations, and resulted in six matters being referred to other regulators since its launch on 5 September.

As well,18 practitioners have been put on notice for potential advertising breaches as our proactive advertising audit progresses.

A public consultation on strengthened Medical Board of Australia guidelines has also taken place in the past month.

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Unproven IV treatments: putting the wellness industry on notice

Ahpra is putting sections of the wellness industry on notice over concerns about the marketing of unproven intravenous (IV) infusion treatments. Warnings have been issued to several businesses over concerns that unproven IV infusion treatments may be being marketed inappropriately across Australia.

IV infusions are an invasive procedure with inherent health and safety risks for patients. There is little to no medical justification or scientific evidence to support their use, with treatments costing several hundreds of dollars.

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Give us your feedback

Using data to protect the public – our draft Data strategy

The data we hold is an important asset that can be used to improve public safety in healthcare. In this consultation, we are exploring how this data could give greater benefit to the public and practitioners and enhance our regulatory effectiveness.

We take our privacy and confidentiality obligations very seriously and apply rigorous security measures to protect the data we collect and hold.

About the consultation

We are inviting responses to specific questions about the future uses of the data we collect and hold and general comments on the draft Data strategy. We are also seeking feedback on the future directions for three focus areas:

  • the public register of health practitioners
  • data sharing, and
  • advanced analytics.

The consultation is open until 31 January 2023. To read the consultation paper and submit your feedback, visit our Consultations page.

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Review of National Scheme accreditation arrangements

The National Boards and Ahpra are reviewing the current accreditation arrangements for the National Scheme to prepare for the next period to mid-2029. The arrangements end on 30 June 2024 for all professions except paramedicine, which end on 30 November 2023.

Accreditation is a core regulatory function in the scheme and accreditation authorities play an important role in the supply of new qualified, safe and competent health practitioners. This involves two processes – program accreditation and practitioner assessment.

More information about accreditation is published on the Ahpra website.

About the consultation

We are inviting feedback from practitioners, stakeholders and the public.

In addition to general feedback, we are interested in stakeholders’ feedback on specific questions about the accreditation arrangements including on performance and progress since mid-2019, and possible areas of focus for the next five years, including how progress in these areas could be measured.

The consultation is open until 14 February 2023. To read the consultation paper and submit your feedback, visit our Consultations page.

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Learning from tribunal and court outcomes

Case summaries are published for education purposes

There are important lessons for registered health practitioners and employers in tribunal and court decisions and we publish summaries of these in the News section of the Ahpra website. 

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Listen up!

Our latest Taking care podcasts

Our Taking care podcast series covers a wide range of current issues in patient safety and healthcare in conversation with health experts and other people in our community. 

Listen and subscribe by searching for Taking care in your podcast player (for example Apple Podcasts or Spotify), or listen on our websiteWe also publish transcripts of our podcasts.

Latest episodes include:

  • innovations in rural and remote healthcare
  • the inextricable link between climate change and healthcare
  • physiotherapy and person-centred care
  • the unique world of rural and remote healthcare.
Taking care

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Check out the National Board news

The 15 National Boards publish newsletters and other information about their work: to visit their websites, follow the links on Ahpra’s home page.


Page reviewed 22/12/2022