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August 2019

Issue 2

From the Chair

Photo of Stephen Gough. Chair, Paramedicine Board of AustraliaNine months ago, after more than a year of planning and preparation, we saw paramedic regulation begin, successfully integrating the profession into the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). We expected around 15,500 registration applications but to date we have received over 18,000, with more to come as this year’s graduates seek to enter the profession and join the paramedic workforce.

To help you understand your obligations as a registered health practitioner, we’ll be publishing guidance on the use of social media and a revised Code of conduct is coming. Later this year we will be consulting on professional capabilities for registered paramedics − your feedback will help us develop standards and resources that support ethical and professional paramedic practice.

The first renewal of registration for paramedics is fast approaching, and we'll be sharing information to help you with the process. Read more about renewal below.

Associate Professor Stephen Gough ASM
Chair, Paramedicine Board of Australia

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Board news

A message of thanks from the Chair and Board: we couldn't have done it without you

The paramedicine profession has been regulated for nine months and we’re approaching the first registration renewal deadline. This is a milestone to celebrate!

We’re firmly embedded in the National Scheme and it’s now business as usual for AHPRA’s registration and customer service teams.

Achieving this result required a monumental, multi-layered effort. We have previously thanked AHPRA staff for their outstanding work and commitment to making this happen smoothly, but it would not have been possible without the engagement and support of government and the paramedicine profession.

Employers, educators, unions and individual practitioners all had critical roles to play, so thank you. We hope that level of support and engagement continues. It will contribute to enhancing the work of the Board.

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Social media – help with how to use it appropriately

In the coming months we will publish guidance to help you understand your responsibilities and obligations as a registered health practitioner when using social media (Facebook and Twitter). The National Law, the Board’s Code of conduct and the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services (the advertising guidelines) apply, just as when you interact in person.

When using social media, you can avoid breaching your obligations by:

  • complying with confidentiality and privacy obligations
  • maintaining consistency with, and not contradicting or countering, public health campaigns or messaging
  • maintaining professional boundaries
  • communicating professionally and respectfully with or about patients, colleagues and employers, and
  • presenting information that is not false, misleading or deceptive.

Please refer to the social media policy on our website for more detail and specific examples.

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Competence assessments for paramedic practice now available

The Board is pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached on a national entry-level competence assessment for paramedics to be conducted by a consortium of universities across the country.

The competence assessment has been developed to assess paramedics applying for registration for the first time via the grandparenting pathways in the National Law1, where an applicant may not have been able to show a sufficient level of practice to satisfy the Board that they are competent to qualify for registration.

An assessment may also be required when an applicant has had a significant gap in practice and needs to show their competence.

The consortium universities across Australia will provide the assessment. Practitioners who need to be assessed will be advised by the Board as part of their application process and can then make a booking through a central booking portal. The assessment will be at the practitioner’s expense.

We thank the universities for their work to develop and establish an assessment for entry level competence of practitioners that meets the Board’s needs.

Read more in the news item on the Board’s website.

[1] The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law as in force in each state and territory.

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Additional English language test approved

To be registered as a paramedic you must be able to show that your English language skills meet the minimum requirements set by the Board.

The Board’s English language skills registration standard (ELS standard) sets out four pathways that an applicant can use to demonstrate their English language competence. One of the four pathways is the English language skills test.

Under the ELS standard, the Board has approved three English language tests:

  • IELTS (academic module)
  • PTE Academic

The ELS standard also allows the Board to approve additional tests and publish information about these tests on its website. Currently, there is no paramedicine specific Occupational English Test (OET), so it is not included in the ELS standard as an approved test. At its meeting on 22 July 2019 the Board agreed that an equivalent pass of the OET test for any other registered health profession will meet the Board’s requirement for registration.

For more information, read the news item on the Board’s website.

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Paramedic registration on the rise – latest update

Our profession is growing rapidly. More than 18,080 applications for registration have been received to date and almost 17,650 applications have been finalised. It will take some months to process the remaining applications, especially the more complex applications where supplementary information from applicants is needed.

In some cases AHPRA may need to seek an applicant's approval to extend the time needed to process an application. If you receive such an email request from AHPRA, you need to respond and confirm your agreement to the extension of time as soon as possible. Unfortunately, without approval to extend the time allowed to process the application, the National Law requires that the application is taken to be refused.

If you receive one of these emails, please ensure that you provide it (along with your acceptance response) to your employer if required, as evidence of your application for registration continuing to be processed by AHPRA.

When registration is granted, you will receive confirmation via email with your registration number, which you will need to give to your employer.

We appreciate the ongoing patience and cooperation of those whose applications are still being processed.

Registration renewal is coming up

The National Law requires all registered health practitioners to renew their registration annually. Paramedics must renew their registration with the Board by 30 November each year – this is the annual renewal date for the profession.

Paramedics, along with over 240,000 other registered health practitioners, will be invited to renew their registration before 30 November 2019. AHPRA will start sending out information on renewal in September/October.

You must renew via the online portal. Look out for AHPRA’s email reminders to renew as confirmation that online renewal is open. Reminders will be emailed several times during the renewal period, so please make sure your contact details held by AHPRA are up to date.
Keep an eye on our website for further information.

National Scheme news

Practitioners’ responsibility to support public health programs

Australia’s health regulators have reminded health practitioners about their responsibility to support public health programs, including vaccination. Regulators have spoken out to support public safety, given mounting concerns about a five-year high in measles cases and an early spike in flu cases this year.

AHPRA and the National Boards have urged more than 740,000 registered health practitioners to take seriously their responsibilities for public health, including by helping patients to be protected from preventable illnesses.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher reminded practitioners that supporting public health programs, including vaccination and immunisation, and not promoting anti-vaccination views were regulatory responsibilities.
‘Registered health practitioners have a regulatory responsibility to support patients to understand the evidence-based information available,’ Mr Fletcher said.
National Boards set codes, standards and guidelines, including about protecting and promoting the health of individuals and the community, which they expect registered health practitioners to meet.
‘Practitioners are of course entitled to hold personal beliefs, but they must ensure that they do not contradict or counter public health campaigns, including about the efficacy or safety of public health initiatives,’ he said.
If practitioners do not comply and meet the professional standards set by their National Board, regulators can and do take action.
National Boards and AHPRA have acted to manage risk to the public, in response to concerns raised about practitioners (including medical practitioners, nurses and chiropractors) who have advocated against evidence-based vaccination programs. This has included restricting practitioners’ practice pending further investigation, when there was a serious risk to the public.
Read the media release on the AHPRA website.

Fake practitioners face jail and hefty fines as new regulatory powers come into force

Since 1 July, the law has got tougher on people who pretend to be a registered health practitioner. The penalties for anyone prosecuted by AHPRA under the National Law for these offences now include bigger fines and the prospect of prison time.

The strengthened sanctions better protect the public. All Health Ministers recognise that penalties need to be tougher for serious cases. When someone pretends to be a registered health practitioner, they pose a significant risk to the public.

AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said, ‘We don’t hesitate to act when someone is pretending to be a registered practitioner. If you claim to be registered when you’re not, you will face serious consequences when you are caught.’

Since 2014, AHPRA has successfully prosecuted more than 50 cases where people were falsely claiming to be registered practitioners including the following:

  • Mr Raffaele Di Paolo was successfully prosecuted in two state courts (Victoria and Queensland) for offences under the National Law, including holding himself out as a medical practitioner and specialist health practitioner, when he was in fact a homeopath. He was fined more than $28,000 in Queensland and in Victoria he was sentenced to nine years and six months in jail.
  • Another high-profile case involved the successful 2017 prosecution of Mr Shyam Acharya, who claimed to be UK-based doctor Dr Sarang Chitale. Mr Acharya was convicted in a New South Wales Local Court and fined $30,000 and was ordered to pay AHPRA’s legal costs of $22,000.
  • A New South Wales court convicted and fined Mr Michael Simon for holding himself out as a registered pharmacist at a family-owned pharmacy in Randwick and dispensing scheduled medications on numerous occasions. He was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay AHPRA’s legal costs of $4,000. Mr Simon has never held registration under the National Law and is not eligible to be registered as a pharmacist.

Other prosecutions have included people pretending to be nurses, physiotherapistspsychologists and dentists.

Fake practitioners betray the trust that patients place in them. The amendments mean that offenders will face the possibility of a maximum term of three years’ imprisonment per offence. They also face an increase in the maximum fines from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual and from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence for a corporate entity.

Summary of the new laws

  • The amendments were passed in February 2019 by the Queensland Parliament under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) (the Act).
  • The new offence provisions will apply in all states and territories, except Western Australia. The amendments to offence provisions do not apply to advertising offences under the National Law.
  • Under the National Law, anyone who uses any of the ‘protected titles’, such as ‘chiropractor’, ‘medical practitioner’, ‘psychologist’ or ‘paramedic’ must be registered with the corresponding National Board.
  • It is an offence to use one of the protected titles, and it is also an offence to knowingly or recklessly claim to be a registered practitioner when you’re not or use symbols or language that may lead a reasonable person to believe that an individual is a registered health practitioner or is qualified to practise in a health profession. These offences are known as ‘holding out’.

Members of the public can check the online register of practitioners to make sure they are seeing a registered practitioner. The register assures patients that the practitioner is qualified and must meet national standards.

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Keeping the notification process in perspective – a practitioner view

Earlier this year, AHPRA launched a series of videos to support the public and registered health practitioners as they go through the notification (complaints and concerns) process. The video series, called ‘Let’s talk about it’, explains what happens when concerns are raised with the regulator, gives easy-to-follow information about the notification process and addresses common questions, so members of the public and health practitioners know what to expect when they interact with AHPRA and National Boards.

Two practitioner experience videos have been added to the series, to help tackle the fear of notifications: A notification was made about me: A practitioner’s experience (from a GP) and Putting it in perspective: A practitioner’s experience (from a surgeon).

Keep perspective; and seek help early. That’s the message in these first-hand accounts. AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said the videos aim to share practitioners’ experiences, recognising what are common reactions, while encouraging practitioners to focus on likely outcomes and seek support.

‘Many practitioners have told us that they would have benefited greatly from hearing the voice of other practitioners who had gone through this experience – and come out the other side. They have also told us that when they are the subject of a notification, they immediately think they will lose their registration and their livelihood – that it’s a catastrophe.

‘We understand that practitioners may feel this way. However, our data show a different story. While we have a clear focus on patient safety, many notifications end without the need for regulatory action and are often closed following initial assessment, without the need for an extended investigation,’ Mr Fletcher said.

The medical practitioners featured agreed to participate to share their experience and reflections with other practitioners in their situation. In particular, they wished they had reached out for help sooner, and emphasise that good support network is essential. Talking to family, friends and having the ongoing support of your own trusted health professionals – your GP, for example – can help you maintain a realistic perspective.

There are now five videos:

The videos sit alongside other written resources available on our website, including information about understanding the notifications experience. See: www.ahpra.gov.au/Notifications.

You can view the videos on the AHPRA and National Board websites or from our YouTube and Vimeo channel, and join the conversation by following AHPRA on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, use the hashtag #letstalkaboutit and tag @AHPRA.

My expereince: receiving a notification

Want more information?

  • Visit the Board’s website for fact sheets and FAQ resources that help answer common questions about paramedic registration, and professional standards, codes and guidelines.
  • For employers of paramedics, we have specific information to help you in the Fact sheet: Employer obligations under the National Law.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9275 9009 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Associate Professor Stephen Gough ASM, Chair, Paramedicine Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 30/08/2019