November 2020

Issue 16 – November 2020


Chair's message

Well, saying that 2020 did not go as anyone had planned is a huge understatement, I think you’d agree.

The Board’s activities have not so much changed as simply gone online, joining you all, I’m sure, in the many Zoom meetings being held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about our pandemic response in the newsletter.

Don’t forget to renew your registration by 30 November this year. You are given one month’s grace to complete that in December if you miss the deadline, but please make sure to renew on time because once your name comes off the national register of practitioners, it is much more difficult to get back on. You need to provide all the evidence of your training and eligibility again.

I want to wish all our practitioners, students and new graduates all the best for the Festive Season and send heartfelt thanks for the good work that you do in our communities.

Renee Owen

Chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia

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Board news

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic – thank you!

The regulated profession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners was identified as one of the priority professions by the various Australian governments at the start of the pandemic. In response the Board and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) asked eligible practitioners (essentially those who had been registered within the previous three years but weren’t registered in 2020) to opt in to a temporary pandemic sub-register, along with other regulated professions of medicine, nursing, midwifery, psychology, physiotherapy, medical radiation practice and pharmacy.

We know that our registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Health Practitioners have been doing a great job screening, testing and helping wherever they can to help keep their community members safe from COVID-19. It’s been a huge effort and we want to thank every one of you for stepping up.

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Registration renewal: CPD and recency of practice requirements and other updates

The Board has joined other National Boards in responding to COVID-19 and recognising that it may not be possible this year for everyone to meet the CPD and recency of practice registration standards. You can read our response in our news item but we encourage you to continue to meet the requirements unless affected by the COVID-19 situation.

There are other changes in response to the pandemic, all listed in the news item, so please check it out before you apply.

Look out for an email from Ahpra providing access to online renewal; the quickest and easiest way to renew.

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Requirements for registration

There are two main parts to registering as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner:

  1. You must be qualified – that is, you must hold a qualification from an approved program of study. These are listed on our website and are the only qualifications that will be accepted. You have got two years from graduation to apply to register. If you apply to register after two years, the Board will probably want some more information from you about what work you’ve been doing in that period and whether it is relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice. It quite often is relevant, but you’ll need to provide us with that evidence.
  2. You must be eligible – that is, you must meet the various registration standards. At your first application for registration you must declare that you:

a. will hold adequate professional indemnity insurance (PII). For our profession, most people are employed by someone (such as an AMS or ACCHO) so the employer will hold the PII for you. If you are asked through audit to provide evidence of your PII, you can ask your employer, or ask us to help explain what we’re after
b. will complete continuing professional development (CPD) each year. You must do a minimum of 20 hours of CPD (including five hours of interactive CPD with others where there is a two-way flow of information) that is relevant to what you do in your job. For instance, if you carry out diabetes care, or ear care, you should search out CPD that is about those topics. NATSIHWA can help you find and log your CPD
c. will work a minimum of 150 hours a year or 450 hours over three years of practice. You can take a break from work for any reason, but you must make sure you meet either 150 hours per year or 450 hours over three years to keep your registration
d. are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. You must provide us with a letter that attests to this
e. will declare your criminal history and make sure you update Ahpra if your criminal history changes at any time. Just because you might have a criminal history doesn’t mean you can’t be registered. All it means is that the Board will take a look at your criminal history and see whether it would affect your work as a registered health practitioner. The Board is interested in protecting the public and so must review criminal histories. It is much better to declare all your criminal history than to be found out through audit. It is also very important that if your criminal history changes at any time, you tell Ahpra.
f. have sufficient English language skills. Because only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can register as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner, and because all our approved programs of study are taught in English (and you must hold one of these qualifications in order to be registered), you don’t need to pass an English language test.

How we regulate the profession

The National Law that Ahpra and the National Boards work under protects titles rather than what you do in your everyday practice, or what you are employed to do (your scope of practice). That is, you can’t call yourself an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner unless you are registered with the Board. These are the same rules as for doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and so on.

You do not have to do clinical work to be ‘practising’. You can work in administration, research, clinical, non-clinical and your work can be paid or unpaid. Wherever you use your knowledge, skills and attributes that you learned as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner can be considered as practice and be used to meet the Recency of practice registration standard.

A very important document that all registered health practitioners must take careful note of is the Board’s Code of conduct. You might have a code of ethics or code of conduct at your workplace, but it is the Board’s Code of conduct that you will be measured against if someone makes a complaint about you or we audit you. If that happens, you need to provide us with evidence that you are qualified and competent to undertake whatever it is in your work that you do. The Code of conduct has a ‘swim between the flags’ approach, which enables a flexible and improving workforce.

Once you understand the concepts of how we regulate health practitioners in Australia, it all fits into place. It’s very different from Aboriginal Health Workers where their scopes of practice are often very defined. We say that you (or your employer) can choose what to do in your practice, so long as you continue to meet our registration standards.

You are very welcome to get in touch if you have any questions at all.

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Students and graduates

Welcome to the profession – check out our online resources

We are delighted that students enrolled in approved programs of study (for regulation purposes) are now receiving our newsletters. We’ve got lots of resources on the website, including insights from practitioners across the country about the good work done by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners. We look forward to welcoming new graduates to the profession when they graduate this year.

Graduate registration is open – you can apply now!

This year’s graduate registration campaign is underway. If you're set to complete your course within the next three months, apply now! See the Board’s news item for everything you need to know, including helpful tips, links to guidance documents and our video for graduating students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives including clinical placements for students. Ahpra is taking COVID-19 into account in this year’s campaign.

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Registration news

Latest workforce data released

The Board publishes quarterly data profiling Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner workforce, including a number of statistical breakdowns about registrants.

The latest data cover the period 1 July to 30 September 2020. There are 836 registered practitioners as at that date, an increase of 24 on the last quarter. This includes 22 practitioners on the pandemic response sub-register.

Registration type by principal place of practice

Registration types

ACT

NSW

NT

QLD

SA

TAS

VIC

WA

No PPP

Total

General

2

186

219

151

72

4

31

166

 

831

Non-practising

 

3

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

5

Total

2

189

220

152

72

4

31

166

0

836*

 

* Total figure includes 22 practitioners on the pandemic response sub-register. For more information go to the COVID-19 page on the Ahpra website.


For more details, including registration by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.

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Regulation news

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner suspended for professional misconduct

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner has been reprimanded and has had her registration suspended for four months after she admitted to inappropriately viewing patient records.

Ms Amorette Lockyer admitted that she had inappropriately viewed patient medical records at her workplace 3,125 times without any clinical justification or authorisation. This included records of 1,361 individual patients, some of which were accessed multiple times.

The records Ms Lockyer viewed included those of her colleagues and family members, as well as patients who had declined to discuss their presenting complaint with her. Ms Lockyer deliberately accessed the records in a way that would not leave an audit trail in the patient's record.

Read more in Board’s news item.

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National Scheme news

Podcast on collaboration across professions featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners

Have you tuned into Ahpra’s podcast, Taking care?

The latest episode of the Taking care podcast highlights the importance of the role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner profession in working with other professions to provide holistic care. In this insightful 30-minute conversation, Health Practitioners and their colleagues find out what this collaboration means to them and community, and the potential for the future.

Now is a great time to download and listen to the latest Ahpra Taking care podcast, or pick any episode from the catalogue! You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

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Inaugural strategy to increase our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce

Ahpra marked NAIDOC Week 2020 by releasing our inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy 2020-2025 (the Employment Strategy).

The goal of the Employment Strategy is to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation within Ahpra through the development of a culturally safe work environment that reflects the diversity of the communities in which we operate and serve. It is a major component of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020–2025, which aims to improve cultural safety, increase workforce participation, strive for greater access and close the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians.

The Employment Strategy contains five priority areas to help achieve our goal:

  • build a sustainable talent pipeline through attraction and recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates
  • implement programs and culturally safe work practices which foster the retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees
  • invest in developing the capabilities and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, including representation in leadership and senior roles
  • develop culturally safe workplaces through education and culturally safe work practices, and
  • know the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce throughout Ahpra to encourage their engagement in the rollout of the Employment Strategy and achievement of its goals.

The Employment Strategy recognises the need to build the cultural capability of all Ahpra employees to enable a proactive and leadership approach. We have an opportunity to address systemic challenges now by investing in and nurturing long-term relationships. We encourage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to seek employment and a career with Ahpra.

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Ahpra 2019/20 annual report: regulating during a pandemic

Ahpra has released its 2019/20 annual report highlighting our regulatory work with National Boards and our response to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahpra and National Boards have worked closely with accreditation authorities, governments and our partners to ensure we play our part fully in supporting health practitioners and the wider health system response to COVID-19.

2020 marked the tenth year of national registration. Australia now has more than 800,000 registered health practitioners. This figure includes around 35,000 recently retired health practitioners in eight professions who were returned to registration as part of our pandemic sub-register to support the health system response to COVID-19.

Regulation can never stand still. COVID-19 meant that Ahpra became a virtual organisation within weeks. We also worked with National Boards to introduce many changes to allow our regulatory work to continue and provided flexibility where it was safe. This included updated guidance about issues such as telehealth services, scope of practice and CPD requirements.

Maintaining public safety remained paramount across all our regulatory work. We implemented changes to the National Law on mandatory reporting, initiated an independent review of our management of sexual boundary notifications and continued our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners to eliminate racism from the health system and ensure cultural safety.

Insights from the year include:

  • There were 801,659 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions, an increase of 7.7% on last year. This includes 35,000 health practitioners on the temporary pandemic sub-register.
  • Between 17 March and 30 June, the COVID-19 portal on the Ahpra website received over 158,000 unique page views. The updates page attracted over 115,000 (unique) views, the FAQs page over 82,000, and the pandemic sub-register over 60,000.
  • More than 82,500 applications for registration were finalised, including over 29,000 applications from new graduates. We halved the median time to finalise an application.
  • The largest growth in registrants was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners +17.7%, paramedics +14.5% and midwives +10.2%.
  • Ahpra received more notifications in 2019/20 than in any other year (10,236), an increase of 9.6%. We closed more notifications than previous years.
  • While the number of notifications is increasing the overall percentage of health practitioners with a notification stayed around the same level (1.6–1.7%).
  • The top three reasons for a notification were clinical care (43.5%), medication issues (9.9%) and communication (7.2%).
  • 132 matters about professional misconduct were determined by tribunals: 100% resulted in disciplinary action.
  • Ahpra received 412 new offence complaints relating to title protection and 584 complaints about advertising.
  • Ahpra completed 11 proceedings in the Magistrates’ and Local Courts. All prosecutions resulted in guilty findings.

To view and download the 2019/20 annual report, visit the Ahpra website.

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Appropriate use of social media during the pandemic 

Ahpra and the National Boards appreciate the importance of a vigorous national debate on public policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we remind all registered health practitioners that their obligation to comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, applies in all settings – including online.

The codes of conduct emphasise that practitioners must always communicate professionally and respectfully with or about other health care professionals.

We have received concerns about the conduct of some health practitioners engaged in online discussion, including in semi-private forums. 

Community trust in registered health practitioners is essential. Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health practitioners have a responsibility to maintain professional and ethical standards, as in all professional circumstances.

In using social media, you should be aware of your obligations under the National Law and your Board’s Code of conduct. For more information see: Social media: How to meet your obligations under the National Law.

Anyone with concerns about the online conduct of a health practitioner can contact 1300 419 495 or make a notification.

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New guide to increase transparency in regulatory decision-making

We have published a new guide explaining how National Boards and Ahpra apply the National Law in the management of notifications about a practitioner’s performance, conduct or health. The guide aims to make it easier to understand how and why decisions are made.

The Regulatory guide and an executive summary are available on the Corporate publications page on the Ahpra website.

Review of confidentiality safeguards for notifiers

In June, we welcomed the independent review by the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner of the confidentiality safeguards in place for individuals making notifications about registered health practitioners.

The Review of confidentiality safeguards for people making notifications about health practitioners was conducted at Ahpra’s request following the conviction of a general practitioner for the attempted murder of a pharmacist who had made a notification about his prescribing practices.

It examined Ahpra’s current management of confidential and anonymous notifications and whether there were ways in which safeguards could be strengthened to ensure the safety of notifiers.

The review found that Ahpra’s practices for managing confidentiality and anonymity were reasonable and consistent with the practices of other regulators internationally. However, there were improvements that could be made.

The review makes practical recommendations for strengthening the protection of notifiers while recognising the importance of fairness for health practitioners who are the subject of a notification. We have accepted all 10 recommendations and outlined a timeline to adopt these changes. For more information and links to the documents, read the media release.

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Keep in touch with the Board

Call Ahpra on 1300 419 495 or 08 7071 5647 if you:

  • have any questions
  • need help filling in forms, or
  • are having trouble explaining to your employer about requirements. You can ask your employer to call this number.

The Board’s website has information on registration forms, registration standards, codes and guidelines, and news. If you have already lodged your application, you may call the registration officer responsible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner applications directly on 08 7071 5647.

To contact the Board, please call Jill Humphreys on 03 8708 9066 or send an email to jill.humphreys@ahpra.gov.au.

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Page reviewed 26/11/2020