22 Jan 2020
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards have welcomed two new policy directions from the COAG Health Council which reinforce that Ahpra and National Boards are to prioritise public protection in the work of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).
The two directions clearly state that public protection is paramount and require consultation with patient safety and health care consumer bodies on any new and revised registration standards, codes and guidelines, as well as other considerations.
Welcoming these directions, Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said that public protection and consultation have always been key considerations when administering the National Scheme, but these guidelines clearly articulate what National Boards and Ahpra need to take into account when determining whether to take regulatory action regarding a health practitioner or when developing or revising registration standards, codes and guidelines.
The first policy direction provides clarity on the considerations that National Boards and Ahpra must give to the public (including vulnerable people in the community) when determining whether to take regulatory action about a health practitioner. It also authorises limited sharing of information to employers and State/Territory health departments about serious conduct matters by a registered health practitioner.
‘As the national regulators, it is Ahpra and the National Boards’ responsibility to protect the public and prevent harm,’ Mr Fletcher said.
‘We are pleased that most health practitioners practise safely and well. In 2018/19 around 98% of all registered practitioners did not have any concerns reported about their conduct, health or performance.’
‘However, these directions provide a clear mandate for National Boards to consider, in those cases where the public may be at risk, the potential impact of a practitioner’s conduct on the public, including vulnerable people in the community, when determining whether to take regulatory action,’ he said.
The second policy direction requires National Boards to consult with patient safety bodies and consumer bodies on registration standards, codes and guidelines when they are being developed or revised. It also provides that National Boards and Ahpra must:
‘Consultation with a broad range of stakeholders is something we regularly undertake, so we welcome this direction to ensure the perspectives, experience and expertise of patient safety organisations and consumers are considered during the development and review of standards, codes and guidelines,’ Mr Fletcher said.
Mr Fletcher emphasised that in implementing these Policy Directions, Ahpra and National Boards will continue to ensure fairness for health practitioners in regulatory processes.
‘We know that fairness is important to practitioners and patients alike, and this will continue to be an important focus in our processes and procedures,’ Mr Fletcher said.
The policy directions can be viewed on the Ahpra and National Board websites.
Ahpra works in partnership with 15 National Boards to regulate Australia’s 740,000 registered health practitioners. Together, our primary role is to protect the public and set the standards and policies that all registered health practitioners must meet. When practitioners meet those standards, they can register once, renew yearly, and practise anywhere in Australia as long as they keep meeting their obligations. We publish a register listing all registered health practitioners and the details of their registration, including any restrictions we’ve placed on their registration. If you, or anyone you know, has concerns about the health, conduct or performance of a registered practitioner, or think someone might be falsely claiming to be a registered practitioner, let us know.