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November 2020

 Issue 24 – November 2020

Chair’s message

Photo of Cylie Williams

It was International Podiatry Day and Foot Health Week in October. Many podiatrists and podiatric surgeons have promoted to the Australian public the value of podiatry services in helping maintain general health and foot health. I would like to thank you for your ongoing professionalism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your responsiveness to the evolving and uncertain situation has meant that the public has been able to safely access urgent and essential podiatry care when they have needed it.

I would also like to acknowledge podiatry students who have also had a unique final year due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise that for final year students, the mode of delivery of education and training will have been very different to what you have experienced in the past and were expecting for your final year of study.

The Board congratulates the final year students who are close to graduating and applying for registration. You’re a valued part of the profession and we look forward to welcoming you to the podiatry workforce. Well done!

Cylie Williams
Chair, Podiatry Board of Australia

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Board news

New community member appointed to the Board

In September we farewelled Board member Mrs Maria Cosmidis, who was appointed in November 2019 as a community member in an acting capacity for up to one year. We thank Maria for her valuable contribution and commitment to the regulation of the podiatry profession. 

We welcome a new member to the Board, Professor Andrew Taggart, who has been appointed as a community member for a three-year term from 25 September 2020.

For the full list of National Board members please visit our Board members page.

What is the role of the Board?

Ahpra and the National Boards recently published results from the second annual survey of stakeholder understanding and perceptions of our role and work. A news item including a report based on the results of the online survey of registered podiatrists is published on the Board’s website. The survey found practitioners have relatively high levels of trust and confidence in the Board.

However, some free text responses indicated that there may be some confusion about the role of the Board and the role of the professional associations, including responses that mentioned the Board advocating for or representing the profession.

With this newsletter now going to students, it gives us an opportunity to outline the role of the Board and what we do and don’t have responsibility for.

What the Board does

The Board, 14 other National Boards and Ahpra administer the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) in the interest of the public. The Board protects the public by:

  • setting registration standards, codes and guidelines
  • registering podiatrists and podiatric surgeons who meet the Board’s requirements for registration
  • managing notifications (complaints) about podiatrist and podiatric surgeons*
  • approving accredited programs of study leading to qualifications for general and specialist registration.

*In NSW and Qld there are other entities, the Podiatry Council of NSW and Office of the Health Ombudsman Queensland, that are involved in managing complaints.

Keeping the public safe in Australia takes more than the efforts of one organisation.

We have published a diagram that provides a snapshot of the different regulators and stakeholder organisations in Australia that are relevant to podiatrists, podiatric surgeons and students.

It describes the Board’s role in the regulation of the podiatry profession under the National Scheme. It also shows a number of other regulators and stakeholder organisations and how they relate to podiatrists, podiatric surgeons and students.

We particularly encourage students to download and review the two-page diagram. It is not intended to represent every entity and organisation but gives a useful overview and is a helpful aid for students entering the profession.

What the Board does not do

As a regulator, the Board’s primary role is to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the public by ensuring podiatrists and podiatric surgeons are competent and fit to practise. It is not the Board’s role to advocate for the podiatry profession, this is the role of the podiatry professional associations. However, as part of its work the Board engages with a broad range of groups including the professional associations, podiatrists, podiatric surgeons and students, regulators and government.

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Endorsement for scheduled medicines

We have previously let you know that we decided to temporarily modify some of the requirements for endorsement for scheduled medicines under Pathway B during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early April, we recognised that due to the exceptional circumstances brought about by the pandemic, practitioners working towards endorsement for scheduled medicines under Pathway B might not be able to complete their period of supervised practice within 12 months. The Board gave a three-month extension for all practitioners in Pathway B to complete their period of supervised practice. In September we provided a further three-month extension.

You don’t need to apply for an extension to complete your supervised practice during this time.

Keep going with your learning if you can

We encourage you to continue with your learning and attend observational clinical placements where they are available, in line with the COVID-19 guidance in your state or territory and it is safe for you to do so.

We also encourage you to continue to have discussions with your mentor, develop your clinical studies and submit them for initial assessment and work on your portfolio of evidence as much as you can.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will review this extension period in December.

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Board freezes registration fees for 2020-21

The Board has frozen the registration fee for podiatrists and podiatric surgeons for 2020–21 at $378.

The fee for practitioners whose principal place of practice is New South Wales (a co-regulatory jurisdiction) is also $378.

A full fee schedule, including the fee arrangements for practitioners whose principal place of practice is NSW, is published on the Board’s website.

Registration renewal is open now

Podiatrists and podiatric surgeons are due to renew their general, specialist or non-practising registration by 30 November 2020. Online renewal is the quickest and easiest way to renew.

If your application for renewal is received by 30 November, or during the following one-month late period, you can continue practising while your application is processed.

If you don’t renew on time

If you apply to renew your registration in December, you will have to pay a late payment fee as well as the registration fee.

If you do not apply to renew your registration by 31 December 2020, your registration will lapse. Your name will be removed from the national register of practitioners and you will not be able to practise as a podiatrist or podiatric surgeon in Australia until a new application for registration has been processed and the national register is updated.

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What’s different about renewal this year? Check our COVID updates before you apply

National Boards and Ahpra recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in many ways and modifications to some of our requirements for registration renewal this year reflect this. We have been regularly updating the COVID-19 FAQs and the profession-specific information. Please check this often.

It is also crucial that you look after yourselves and each other. Information about general support services is available on the Ahpra website.

What if I can’t meet the CPD requirements for this registration period because of COVID-19?

We encourage you to continue to do continuing professional development (CPD) that is relevant to your scope of practice and your current work environment and maintain current training in CPR, management of anaphylaxis and use of an automated external defibrillator or training in advanced life support in the case of podiatric surgeons. However, we understand that some practitioners may have trouble meeting the CPD requirements during this challenging time.

What about recency of practice?

You are also strongly encouraged to meet the recency of practice requirements. If you are unable to meet the recency of practice standard due to COVID-19, we will not take action. Recency of practice requirements will need to be met when practitioners apply for renewal in 2021. More information is published on the COVID-19 updates All profession information page.

We also expect practitioners to comply with their professional obligations, including to recognise and work within the limits of their competence and scope of practice and to maintain adequate knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective care.

You should answer all renewal questions honestly and accurately and tell us whether you did or didn't meet the CPD and recency registration standards' requirements. Ahpra and the Board will not take action if you could not meet the requirements of either of these two standards in 2020 because of COVID-19.

COVID-19 financial hardship payment plan available

A payment plan is available for practitioners experiencing genuine financial hardship due to COVID-19. If eligible, you will be able to pay half your registration fee at renewal and make a second payment in the first half of 2021.

The payment plan has been developed in response to the exceptional circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic presents. When making decisions about financial hardship applications, Ahpra and National Boards will consider the financial sustainability of the National Scheme to continue to protect the public balanced with the circumstances of individual applicants and access to the workforce.

How to apply for the financial hardship payment plan:

  • You’ll need to complete the financial hardship form and wait to hear the outcome before renewing your registration – we can’t consider an application for the financial hardship payment plan if you have already renewed.
  • Information on the financial hardship payment plan, including eligibility criteria and how to apply is on the Board’s registration renewal FAQs page.

Advertising declaration and audit

At renewal, you will be required to complete a new declaration that your advertising complies with Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) advertising requirements.

This is part of a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements and compliance by registered health practitioners who advertise their services and will include auditing of health practitioners to check advertising compliance.

The audit, to be carried out by Ahpra’s Advertising Compliance team from February 2021, will not delay a decision on the application for renewal.

Audited practitioners who are found to have non-compliant advertising will be managed under the strategy.

Download your registration certificate and tax invoice

Another change this year is that paper certificates are no longer issued, but you can print a registration certificate from your online services account after you’ve renewed. You can also download your tax receipt.

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Students and graduates

Graduating soon? Here’s what you need to know about registration

This year’s graduate registration campaign is underway. Graduates of an approved program of study can apply for general registration online.

If you’re about to graduate or set to graduate within the next three months we recommend you start your application for registration now.

See the Board’s news item for what you need to know before applying, including helpful tips, links to guidance documents and a video for graduating students.

A short, animated video is published on the Board’s website. It outlines the standards that must be met to become registered and the professional standards expected of the profession in order to stay registered.

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.

Avoid delays with your application

Check out the resources on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website before you submit your application. This will help ensure your application is complete, so we don’t have to come back to you seeking clarification or more information. We can then get you registered as soon as we receive your graduate results.

Contact us if you are experiencing financial hardship

Some of you who are about to graduate may be experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic (such as being unemployed and/or unable to work because of caring responsibilities or illness).

If you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to pay the required fees, please contact the Ahpra Customer Service team via web enquiry or on 1300 419 495 to discuss your individual situation before you complete your online graduate application. You can start your application online and pause it if you need to contact us about financial hardship.

Graduate experience survey and service improvements

Last year Aphra conducted the first ever survey of new graduates to hear about their experience registering for the first time. We contacted just over 24,000 graduates and had a great response rate of over 15 per cent to the voluntary survey.

We’re very grateful to those graduates who participated, their feedback will help us improve the experience for this year’s graduates. Some of the improvements we’re making include:

  • emailing graduates with updates to complement the online application tracker and give more detail about where your application is at in the assessment process, and
  • providing more guidance on how to correctly certify photo identity documents.

We hope this will make first-time registration a smooth experience for you.

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Regulation at work

Podiatrist disqualified for transgressing professional boundaries

The Podiatry Board referred Mr Phillip Lawson to the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal for professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct in relation to his treatment of a client.

The Board alleged that Mr Lawson engaged in professional misconduct by:

  • transgressing professional boundaries with a client, including by having a sexual relationship with her
  • failing to maintain proper and transparent financial commercial dealings by inappropriately billing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in respect of his treatment of the client, and
  • failing to maintain accurate or adequate clinical records in respect of his treatment of the client.

It also alleged he engaged in unprofessional conduct by providing podiatry services that were not clinically indicated or justified.

On 5 February 2020, the tribunal found Mr Lawson guilty of professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct and disqualified him from practising for six months. He was also reprimanded.

For more information, read the news item.

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National Scheme news

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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Building trust and confidence: new engagement strategy

Ahpra and the National Boards have released the National Scheme engagement strategy 2020-2025.

Our engagement strategy outlines our goal of building trust and confidence among our stakeholders in our work to protect public health and safety. The strategy supports the vision, mission and strategic themes of our National Registration and Accreditation Scheme Strategy 2020-2025.

To be an effective and efficient regulator, we must be responsive to the evolving understanding and expectations of the public, health practitioners, our organisational partners and other stakeholders. This requires two-way communication and an active interest in the needs of people who engage with us.

The engagement strategy:

  • outlines the broad principles to guide our strategic engagement
  • aims to ensure that our interactions with individuals and organisations are consistently respectful, person-centred and contribute towards our regulatory objectives, and
  • provides an overview of ways we will engage with our stakeholders over the next five years.

You can read more on the engagement strategy page, including the goals of effective engagement, priority objectives and Ahpra stakeholders.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit www.podiatryboard.gov.au for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQ. Visiting the website regularly is the best way to stay in touch with news and updates from the Board.
  • Lodge an enquiry form via the website by following the Enquiries link on every web page under Contact us.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • To update your contact details for important registration renewal emails and other Board updates, go to the Ahpra website: Update contact details.
  • Address mail correspondence to A/Prof. Cylie Williams, Chair, Podiatry Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 16/09/2021