Issue 25 – June 2021
Welcome to our first newsletter of 2021. I’d especially like to greet our new podiatry graduates, who have had a unique and challenging final year. Well done and welcome to the profession. We have released a short video to delve into what it means now you’re registered: read more in the story below.
As we adapt to COVID-normal, we recognise the ongoing short lockdowns are disruptive to practice. Thank you for following your local state or territory government’s public health advice, each time. This continues to play an active role in reducing transmission as the vaccination program gets underway.
The Board is continuing to work virtually and we’re being flexible in our approach, like many of you. Late last year we met online with stakeholders in regional Tasmania; this helped us understand the pandemic’s impact on podiatry practice in public and private settings and how podiatrists have managed to minimise the risk to patients of disrupted services. The session was very informative and a great opportunity to share knowledge across the profession.
This issue has important information about COVID-19 vaccination and the public consultation on the shared Code of conduct, as well as reminders about the importance of maintaining good health records, and of meeting your obligation to advise the Board about certain events that may affect your registration.
Chair, Podiatry Board of Australia
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The National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have published a joint statement to help registered health practitioners and students understand what’s expected of them in giving, receiving and advising on and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination.
Registered health practitioners have led the remarkable public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and we commend them for this sustained public health response. As the national vaccination program gets underway, registered health practitioners and students remain critical to this success by:
The statement should be read in conjunction with the standards, codes, guidelines, position statements and other guidance. The Code of conduct explains the public health obligations of registered health practitioners, including participating in efforts to promote the health of the community and meeting obligations on disease prevention.
There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of anti-vaccination claims, including on social media and in advertising, may result in regulatory action. See Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service for further advice.
Twelve of the 15 National Boards, including the Podiatry Board, have a shared Code of conduct that sets out the standards of professional conduct the National Boards expect and which they use to evaluate practitioners’ conduct. Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and to apply this code
The shared code is also an important document for the public as it can help them understand what behaviour they can expect from a registered health practitioner and assess whether their care met professional standards
National Boards and Ahpra are reviewing the shared code to ensure it stays up-to-date, relevant and useful for practitioners and to make it more accessible to the public. We have published a consultation paper that includes an overview of the review, case studies, proposed changes to the code and optional questions that may help frame your feedback
The consultation is open until 6 July 2021 and we’re keen to hear from practitioners, the community and health system stakeholders. See Ahpra’s Consultations page for the consultation paper and more information.
The Board expects all podiatrists and podiatric surgeons to create and maintain clear, accurate and up-to-date health records for every patient. This is essential for the continuing good care of your patients.
The Board’s Code of conduct sets out the Board’s expectations of what constitutes good practice when maintaining health records. Good practice involves:
The Board has also published Guidelines on clinical records on our website: see Policies, codes and guidelines.
In our next newsletter we will highlight the benefits of maintaining accurate, contemporaneous health records and how they contribute to public safety.
There are times when podiatrists and podiatric surgeons are obliged to tell the Board about certain events. These are called ‘relevant events’ and are set out in section 130 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law). You must tell us within seven days if:
There are slightly different requirements for students, who must tell us within seven days if:
A full list of the ‘relevant events’ that registered podiatrists and podiatric surgeons and students are obliged to tell us about is included in the Notice of certain events form published on the Ahpra website. To inform us of a relevant event, please complete the form on the Common forms page.
You must also tell us within 30 days about any changes to your:
To update your address and contact details log into your Ahpra account, or if the change of personal details includes a name change, use the Request for change of personal details form on the Common forms page.
My early career was in research and teaching at university level and later I held senior management roles in mental health, public hospitals and research implementation. In the middle years I helped establish sexual assault services and child and adolescent telepsychiatry services, worked on new models of coordinating care, the move of mental health care from institutions to the community, the establishment of an Aboriginal mental health worker training program, and retention programs for university students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I have always been interested in voluntary work and have undertaken many roles in the community as well as pro bono work for various not-for-profit organisations. These included projects to introduce teenage parents to hiking, implementing research to improve the lives of people living with dementia, designing recreational trails, preserving the local environment and developing walking programs for people with cognitive decline.
I have been a community member of the Podiatry Board of Australia since August 2015. I’m based in a small township just outside Melbourne.
I was fortunate to join a board that regulates a fairly young cohort of energetic, inspiring and questioning practitioners. This is also reflected in the Board membership.
I initially resisted applying as I thought it might be boring. Far from it! During the pandemic lockdown in Melbourne, I binge watched the international regulation meetings each night, learning about how regulators identified serial killers from their databases, the seamy side of regulating lawyers, and heard answers to questions I had often considered such as does CPD really work?
During my time on the Board there has been a greater awareness of the perspective of notifiers and how to listen and communicate effectively with them. There has also been a more overt recognition of practitioners and their stresses, and a will to support them.
The Board has developed new standards and policies that will make a difference to the future jobs of podiatrists in a positive way, for example, endorsement for scheduled medicines. The website has been transformed with an emphasis on social media, useful tools and visually appealing/fun messages. At the macro level, there have been changes acknowledging the importance of the consumer perspective and their role in regulation, and cultural safety. Community members now chair some of the committees, and I was very fortunate to have this opportunity.
I believe in it, that is I think podiatrists provide a very valuable service, and there is evidence underpinning what they do. Podiatrists are interested in research. Their conferences are very interesting. I learned which type of running shoe was best and why. I am also a strong believer in the valuable role of community members on boards. The lessons go both ways.
I think events of the last few years such as the various royal commissions into aged care, the financial services sector and disability have demonstrated how important regulation is to peoples’ lives, security and safety.
Continue to innovate and lead and continue to employ excellent committed people.
A few small things help me when I am making decisions: Life is short ... enjoy it. Say ‘yes’ to invitations, opportunities, and friendships. Look after the most vulnerable in society. ‘Thank you’ is an under-utilised word that costs nothing. Don’t judge, and be patient.
I would encourage practitioners and community members to consider applying for the Board in the next recruitment round. You will always be busy, so why not now!
Another successful registration renewal period has passed, marking 10 years of annual renewal under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). Online renewal is the easiest way to renew and since 2011 the number of practitioners who renew online has risen from 82 per cent to 97 per cent. Thanks to everyone who renewed their application on time and especially to those of you who got in early. Responding to the early email reminders to renew ensures plenty of time for your application to be assessed and for you to be contacted if follow-up is needed.
The Board understands that some practitioners had trouble meeting the continuing professional development (CPD) and recency of practice (ROP) requirements in 2020 because of the national COVID-19 emergency.
If you declared in your 2020 renewal that you didn’t meet the CPD and/or ROP requirements because of COVID-19, there is no further action you need to take.
As the COVID-19 emergency has now eased, the Board expects all podiatrists and podiatric surgeons to meet the requirements set out in the Board’s CPD and ROP registration standards ahead of renewing their registration in 2021. We will continue to monitor the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and will publish further advice if the current situation changes.
CPD is central to providing safe and effective podiatry care. It is how podiatrists and podiatric surgeons maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge, expertise and competence, and develop the personal and professional qualities required throughout their professional lives.
CPD is a process of lifelong learning that ensures a practitioner’s knowledge and skill sets are up to date.
We encourage you to reflect on your practice, identify gaps in your knowledge and skills and undertake CPD activities that are relevant to your scope of practice. If your registration is endorsed for scheduled medicines, this includes activities relevant to the endorsement.
The Board has published a Continuing professional development (CPD) learning plan to help you with planning your CPD for the year. You can find it under Policies, codes and guidelines on our website.
The Board’s latest quarterly registration data has been released. The report covers 1 January to 31 March 2021. At this date, there were 5,759 registered practitioners: 5,581 with general registration as a podiatrist, 36 with both general and specialist registration as a podiatric surgeon, and 142 non-practising registrants.
For more details, including registration data by principal place of practice, age and gender, visit our Statistics page.
The Board has released a short video to introduce new graduates to the profession.
You’ll hear from the Chair of the Board, two practitioner members and a community member.
In the video you can find out more about the role of the Board, the importance of meeting the standards for registration each year, and how to stay connected with the Board and the profession as you continue your lifelong, reflective learning as a registered podiatrist.
Watch the video to find out more.
Responsible advertising about regulated health services helps to keep the public safe from false or misleading claims and supports the public to make informed choices about their healthcare.
Make sure you check your advertising to ensure it complies with advertising requirements of the National Law.
When applying to renew their registration in 2020, health practitioners were asked to declare that, if they advertise, their advertising meets the advertising requirements of the National Law. Ahpra is now auditing compliance.
We recently began this proactive audit to supplement our complaints-driven approach. Non-compliant advertising will be addressed under the Advertising Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.
The updated Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service are available to help practitioners and other advertisers understand their obligations when advertising a regulated health service.
A range of other resources are also available at the Advertising hub on the Ahpra website to help the public, practitioners and other advertisers understand the advertising requirements of the National Law. These include examples, frequently asked questions and additional information about acceptable evidence and testimonials.
We know health practitioners want to do the right thing and advertise responsibly. We encourage you to use the resources and information available to help ensure your advertising complies with the National Law.
If you need advice about whether your advertising complies with the National Law, you may wish to seek this from your professional association, an independent legal adviser or indemnity insurer.
Ahpra and the National Boards cannot give advice or an opinion about advertising and cannot check or pre-approve advertising to see if it complies with the National Law and the advertising guidelines. This is because as statutory regulators our role is to enforce the law, not to provide legal advice to advertisers about how to advertise.
A key objective of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is to embed cultural safety in the National Scheme and the health system. A new, online and face-to-face education and training program for all Ahpra staff, board and committee members has begun state by state, starting in our Tasmanian office in Hobart.
The Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training program is designed to provide members of the National Scheme with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply culturally safe work practices as these relate to their role as part of the National Scheme.
The program gives participants an opportunity to hear and learn from the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to reflect on their own behaviours, and their conscious and unconscious beliefs. Upon completion of the program, participants will be better prepared to engage in culturally safe practices, communication and behaviour, in order to contribute to more effective service delivery and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The cultural safety training will contribute to Ahpra employees’, Board members’ and practitioners’ ongoing critical reflection on their knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in providing safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.
We want all our people to embrace the training with an open mind and the ability to learn and unlearn!
In 2017 Ahpra commissioned independent research that took the first international look at vexatious complaints. The report, Reducing, identifying and managing vexatious complaints, found that vexatious complaints account for less than one per cent of notifications received, and that there is greater risk of people not reporting concerns than of people making truly vexatious complaints.
The report also noted that being on the receiving end of any notification is a distressing experience for any health practitioner. Regulators need to have good processes for dealing with unfounded complaints quickly and fairly.
Following recommendations made in the report, Ahpra developed A framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious notifications for staff and regulatory decision-makers. This will help us identify and manage potentially vexatious notifications. The framework outlines:
We understand that practitioners who feel that they may be the subject of a vexatious notification are more likely to experience stress and anxiety. Our staff are equipped to identify and support these practitioners and to implement management strategies set out in our framework when a concern about vexatiousness is raised with us.
Our staff are here to help you before, during or after the notifications process. We encourage you to visit our General support services page where you can find the contact details for additional support services. You can also listen to Episode 1: Vexatious notifications, Taking care, Ahpra’s podcast and visit our Concerns about practitioners page for more information about notifications and links to the report and framework.
Ahpra will establish a new, independently chaired committee to consider key accreditation issues, in response to a new policy direction from the Health Council.
The new committee will have broad stakeholder membership to give independent and expert advice on accreditation reform issues to Ahpra’s Agency Management Committee. The new committee will replace Ahpra’s Accreditation Advisory Committee set up in 2020.
The Independent Review of Accreditation Systems (ASR) Final Report, Australia’s health workforce: strengthening the education foundation, recommended that Health Ministers issue the policy direction.
Ahpra and the National Boards welcomed the policy direction, which requires Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditation authorities to consider the new committee’s advice when exercising their functions under the National Law.
Under the policy direction, Ahpra, National Boards and accreditation authorities must document the outcome of their consideration of the new committee’s advice in meeting minutes, communiqués or other relevant formats.
Ahpra and National Boards will continue to work collaboratively with accreditation authorities through the Accreditation Liaison Group and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum.
The policy direction can be viewed on the Ahpra website.
A recent episode of Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series features Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Adjunct Professor Brett Sutton, and Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, speaking openly about their experience of leading during a pandemic, how they coped, and the impact on them and their families.
Brett Sutton speaks about the heavy burden of decision-making with such far-reaching consequences and the importance of his own family and other support mechanisms he relied on to handle the huge pressures. Jeannette Young discusses the fact that there was no rule book, the importance of her husband’s early retirement to support her and how she managed death threats.
Despite the intensity and seriousness of their work, both could see the lighter side of their unexpected celebrity status, a consequence of the unavoidable media spotlight.
Ahpra releases a new Taking care episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.