2019/20 annual summary

Snapshot of the profession

  • 40,517 psychologists
    • Up 7.2% from 2018/19
    • 5.1% of all registered health practitioners
  • 0.7% identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • 80.0% female; 20.0% male

Age

Age: 2.0% < 25, 23.5% 25-34, 27.1% 35-44, 21.1% 45-54, 14.7% 55-64, 9.7% 65-74, 1.8% > 75

Audit outcomes

Audit: 78.0% fully compliant, 2.0% compliant (through education), 10.0% non-compliant, 10.0% no audit action required

Regulating the profession

Notifications

  • 737 notifications lodged with Ahpra
    • 895 registered psychologists Australia-wide, including HPCA and OHO data, had notifications made about them 
    • 2.2% of the profession 

Sources of notifications

Sources of notifications: 65.8% patient, relative or member of the public, 13.8% other practitioner, 7.6% HCE, 4.2% employer, 1.9% Board’s own motion, 6.6% other

  • 30 immediate actions taken
  • 64 mandatory notifications received 
    • 38 about professional standards

Most common types of complaint

Most common types of complaint: 25.0% clinical care, 10.9% communication, 10.0% confidentiality, 9.4% documentation, 9.1% boundary violation, 35.7% other

Notifications closed

Notifications closed: 580 notifications closed (8.8% conditions imposed on registration or an undertaking accepted, 7.9% received a caution or reprimand, 1.2% registration suspended or cancelled, 0.2% fined, 0.2% registration surrendered, 9.7% referred to another body or retained by a health complaints entity, 72.1% no further action)

Monitoring

  • 165 practitioners monitored for health, performance and/or conduct during the year 
  • 161 cases being monitored at 30 June: 
    • 28 for conduct
    • 13 for health reasons
    • 40 for performance
    • 18 for prohibited practitioner/student
    • 62 for suitability/eligibility for registration

Criminal offence complaints

  • 132 criminal offence complaints made 
    • 124 about title protection 
    • 1 about practice protection
    • 7 about advertising breaches
  • 130 were closed 

Referrals to an adjudication body

  • 9 matters decided by a tribunal
  • 4 matters decided by a panel
  • 12 appeals

A report from the Chair 

Strategic projects

The Psychology Board of Australia’s education and training reform project is a multi-year initiative aimed at reducing the regulatory burden and complexity of psychology training. We completed the first phase of the project last year when we announced the retirement of the 4+2 internship program as a pathway to general registration.

This year the Board has started the second phase of reform: reviewing the competencies required for both general psychologists and endorsed psychologists. 

The focus of phase two is to improve the alignment of psychology training and competency development with registration for general and endorsed psychologists, and to maximise the area of practice endorsement framework as a regulatory mechanism for the benefit of the public.

The Board is committed to ensuring that both general and endorsed psychologists can demonstrate the professional competencies to ensure safe, responsive, accessible and effective practice. The regulation of psychologists needs to be responsive to client and industry needs. 

Clients should be able to easily find and access psychologists who have expertise that matches their needs, and psychologists need to have clear ways to explain to their clients the services they can provide. We need to help the community and the profession to better understand the competencies of a general psychologist and the meaning and purpose of area of practice endorsement.

Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic delayed some of our planned face-to-face consultation activities this year. However the Board remains committed to finding ways of ensuring the views of psychologists, educators, government and the community are heard as we continue to progress this important piece of work. 

While the pandemic delayed these consultation activities, we remain committed to finding ways of ensuring these views are heard as we continue our education and training reform, our major initiative for the year and beyond. 

Regulatory response to COVID-19 

In addition to the cross-professional regulatory measures that Ahpra and the National Boards put in place in response to the pandemic, the Board temporarily modified some of the regulatory requirements for 4+2 and 5+1 interns so that they could continue professional training while still maintaining client safety.

These included allowing interns to work fewer than the minimum hours required per week and to complete direct observation tasks via video. The Board also supported interns to complete the national psychology exam in a safe and timely manner via online proctoring, in which interns sat the exam via the internet from their home or workplace, rather than at a testing centre. 

We further supported psychologists to gain or maintain Board approval as a supervisor by allowing both initial training and refresher training to be completed online. 

Over 1,700 eligible psychologists were added to the pandemic sub-register in April.

Standards and guidelines

A revised Registration standard for area of practice endorsements was approved by Health Ministers and came into effect on 1 December 2019, along with new Guidelines for area of practice endorsements.

The revised documents bring the Board’s endorsement qualification requirements in line with the new Accreditation standards for psychology programs. Other changes have been made to reduce the regulatory burden on registrars and their supervisors, including slightly reduced supervised practice hours, less frequent progress reports and greater flexibility in supervision arrangements.

The Board also published new Guidelines for the national psychology exam on 19 July 2019. Following a public consultation, the guidelines were amended to permanently exempt higher degree students from being required to sit the exam.

The Board also sought to improve the clarity and simplicity of information provided to exam candidates by revising the policy content in the guidelines and removing operational information and publishing it in a new manual for candidates. 

Focus on regional boards

This year the Board, in conjunction with Ahpra, ran recruitment campaigns to appoint a number of practitioner and community members to vacancies on the New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria/ACT/Tasmania and Northern Territory/South Australia/Western Australia regional boards. 

These four regional boards of the Psychology Board of Australia play an important role in regulatory decision-making for psychologists. They perform functions that are delegated by the National Board in regulatory matters related to registration and health, performance and conduct. They also bring a local perspective to regulatory decision-making. 

We look forward to working with both our new and reappointed members in 2020/21. 

Ms Rachel Phillips, Chair

 
 
Page reviewed 12/11/2020