Psychology Board of Australia - April 2019
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April 2019


Issue 25 - April 2019

From the Chair

Photo of Rachel Phillips

‘There is no true physical health without mental health.’ (Chisholm, 1954)

As the diversity of a psychologist’s role has broadened, the understanding of how to treat psychological disorders has expanded and deepened. The profession is in a fortunate position of growth and has a far-reaching sphere of influence by nature of our diverse work roles.

Two objectives of the National Scheme focus regulation to:

  • facilitate access to services provided by health practitioners in accordance with the public interest, and
  • allow for the continuous development of a flexible, responsive and sustainable Australian health workforce. 

It is important to recognise that all psychologists are regulated and listed on the register of practitioners – provisional psychologists in accordance with the Provisional registration standard, and general psychologists in accordance with the General registration standard. If a psychologist chooses to advance their qualifications in one of the nine Area of Practice Endorsements (AoPE), the competencies they develop in the endorsed area of practice are in addition to competencies achieved for general registration and appear as a notation on their general registration. The Board is committed to ensuring that psychology training prepares psychologists for both general and advanced practice.

The burden of mental illness continues to increase and access to appropriate and effective psychological services for the most disadvantaged has not improved. Psychologists must consider how we will reduce the burden of mental illness safely and sustainably.

The next step in the Board’s regulatory reform agenda is to ensure there is a sustainable and skilled psychology workforce for the future, and the Australian community has access to the diversity of mental health services and psychological support they require.

Rachel Phillips
Chair, Psychology Board of Australia

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Board news

Psychology regulation at work: Protecting the public in 2017/18

A profession-specific annual report summary that looks into the work of the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) over the 12 months to 30 June 2018 has now been published.

The report draws on data from the 2017/18 annual report by AHPRA and the National Boards. This information gives a snapshot of the profession as at 30 June 2018, and includes the number of applications for registration, outcomes of practitioner audits and segmentation of the registrant base by gender, age and principal place of practice.

Notifications information includes the number of complaints or concerns received, matters opened and closed during the year, types of complaint, monitoring and compliance and matters involving immediate action.

Insights into the profession include:

  • 36,376 psychologists were registered in 2017/18.
  • 5,278 new applications for registration were received.
  • Psychologists make up 5.2% of all registered health practitioners in Australia.
  • The number of psychologists increased by 4.0% from 2017/18.
  • 79.9% psychologists are women; 20.1% are men.
  • New South Wales (NSW) was the principal place of practice for most psychologists (11,956).
  • Northern Territory (NT) was home to the smallest number (231).
  • The age bracket with the largest number of psychologists was 35–39 (5,244).
  • 791 psychologists were under 25 years of age.
  • 100 were aged 80 or over.
  • 437 notifications (complaints or concerns) were lodged with AHPRA about psychologists.
  • AHPRA closed 381 notifications about psychologists in 2017/18.
  • 140 cases were being monitored by AHPRA at 30 June 2018 for compliance with restrictions placed on their registration.
  • Immediate action was considered 22 times and taken 18 times by the Board in 2017/18.
  • 117 complaints were made about possible statutory offences by psychologists during the year. Over 89% of the new matters related to title protection; 12 related to title advertising breaches.

To download this report, or to view the main 2017/18 annual report, visit the AHPRA website.

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Psychology practitioner audit update

Audits are an important way for all practitioners to show Boards and the public that they understand, have met, and will continue to meet the mandatory registration standards relevant to their profession. At registration renewal, each practitioner submits their annual statement declaring their compliance with these standards. The purpose of audit is to confirm that the practitioner has complied with these standards.

2019 audit

The 2019 audit of psychology practitioners is now underway and we are auditing three registration standards:

  • Continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Professional indemnity insurance arrangements (PII), and
  • Criminal history information.

Practitioners randomly selected for audit received a notice with requests to give evidence to confirm compliance with the registration standards. The audit notice and the checklist provide the information the practitioner needs to support their submission of information.

Further information, including what you need to do if you are selected for audit, is available on the Audit page.

2017 and 2018 audit findings

In 2018, we audited psychologists’ compliance with three mandatory registration standards: PII, CPD and Recency of practice. In 2017 we audited compliance with PII, CPD and Criminal history.

Overall, of the cohort of audited psychologists:

  • 93.56% were fully compliant with the registration standards
  • 0.42% were compliant through education in one or more standards
  • 1.12% were non-compliant with one or more standards, which resulted in regulatory action taken
  • 2.10% were referred to co-regulatory authorities due to suspected non-compliance with one or more standards, and
  • 2.80% had no audit action required: practitioners who changed their registration type to non-practising or surrendered their registration after being advised they were subject to audit.

While there remains a high level of compliance, there is an increase in the number of matters referred to the Board or external entity for consideration of suspected non-compliance. The suspected non-compliance generally relates to the CPD and PII standards.

You must not practise as a psychologist unless you have PII arrangements in place. If you carry out a combination of employed and self-employed roles, you need to make sure that you have PII arrangements in place which give appropriate cover for all aspects of your practice. As your employer’s PII arrangements may not cover you for any practice that you carry out in your self-employed role, you may need to ensure that you have made your own PII arrangements to cover your additional practice.

The Guidelines on professional indemnity insurance for psychologists give further guidance.

If you take leave of absence from practice during the year but maintain general registration you must meet the full CPD requirements unless you apply for and are granted an exemption by the Board. If you take leave of absence of 12 months or more the Board recommends that you change your registration type to non-practising and then change it back to general before you resume practice, using the appropriate application forms.

The Guidelines for continuing professional development for psychologists give further guidance.

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First National Psychology Exam quality assurance project completed

The Board has completed a quality assurance project to improve the National Psychology Exam’s reliability and use.

We introduced the National Psychology Exam in 2013 to ensure a consistent professional standard of psychologists who apply for general registration across the various non-accredited training pathways. The exam is one of many regulatory tools we use to protect the public.

We are committed to ensuring the exam gives the best possible assessment of the competencies required for general registration as a psychologist in Australia and have agreed to regularly review and evaluate the exam content, effectiveness, processes and policies. The quality assurance project was a major step in this commitment. For more information on the quality assurance project, including the results of the project, and the steps we are taking next, please see our media release.

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Join our consultation on the Guidelines for the National Psychology Exam

The Board has published Consultation Paper 33: Review of the Guidelines for the National Psychology Exam (the guidelines).

The Board proposes two substantive changes in this review.

The first proposal is to make the higher degree exemption from sitting the exam permanent. This means that graduates with a board-approved postgraduate qualification accredited at the fifth and sixth year of study will not be required to pass the exam before applying for general registration. A permanent exemption would remove the need to periodically consult on extending the exemption, it would use accreditation processes more effectively, reduce regulation, and create certainty for higher degree students, education providers and supervisors about the Board’s requirements for registration.

The second proposal is to separate the guidelines into two documents, one policy document (a revised guideline) and one operational document (a new manual for candidates enrolled to sit the exam). Separating policy and operational information will make it easier for candidates to prepare for the exam by improving the clarity and simplicity of information and making it easier to find the relevant information.

We are seeking feedback from stakeholders on the review, including feedback from provisional psychologists, higher education providers, employers, supervisors, and the public.

The consultation paper is available under Current consultations and we are accepting submissions until close of business (AEST) 31 May 2019.

Please provide written submissions in Word format by email, marked ‘Consultation – Review of the Guidelines for the National Psychology Exam’ to [email protected].

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Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria

Mandatory reporting to child protection refers to the legal requirement of certain professional groups to report a reasonable belief of child physical or sexual abuse to child protection authorities.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) made several recommendations to achieve national consistency in mandatory reporting and identified a minimum set of professional groups who should be mandated in all jurisdictions.

From 1 March 2019, registered psychologists who practise in Victoria are mandated to report a reasonable belief of child physical or sexual abuse. Reporting requirements apply to all registered psychologists in Victoria, whether you are working in the public sector, an agency, non-government organisation, a school or in private practice. If you work for an organisation or school, there may be a person you can consult with, identified through existing organisational policies, in preparation for making a report to child protection. If you are a private practitioner, you can discuss this with your supervisor.

The legislation requires you to make a report to child protection as soon as possible after forming the belief and after each occasion you become aware of any further grounds for the belief. Child protection staff are experienced practitioners skilled in receiving reports and discussing concerns about a child with reporters.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in Victoria is responsible for managing the expansion of mandatory reporting groups in Victoria and has produced an FAQ and contacts document for psychologists, which you can access on the DHHS website.

Mandatory reporting laws are different across all states and territories. The Australian Institute of Family Studies website gives a helpful summary of the mandatory reporting requirements across jurisdictions, as well as contact details for the reporting authority in each state and territory.

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National Scheme news

National Boards and AHPRA host research summit

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme 2019 Research Summit took place on 27 February 2019 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The summit asked how research can be harnessed to strengthen regulation and improve patient safety to contribute to improved health outcomes.

Led by AHPRA and the National Boards, the all-day Research Summit hosted 17 speakers and drew more than 300 participants from national, state and territory board and committee members, AHPRA staff, co-regulatory bodies, representatives from accreditation authorities and key partners.

With the theme ‘Optimising research for regulatory effectiveness’, the Research Summit explored the National Scheme’s evolving approaches to risk assessment, lessons from research into notifications, and future opportunities to use smart data. At the heart of discussions was asking how we can use data and research to improve regulatory processes and, ultimately, contribute to safer care for patients.

Professor Zubin Austin from the University of Toronto, Canada, was a keynote speaker. His stirring address highlighted that competency assessment has emerged as a dominant issue for regulators, educators and employers worldwide; Professor Austin called for more attention to be focused on notions of teamwork, emotional intelligence, and genuine practitioner engagement as important concepts in defining and evaluating competency.

Read more in the media release about the summit.

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'Let's talk about it' videos launched

AHPRA has launched a series of new videos to support the public and registered health practitioners as they go through the notification 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 notifications process and addresses common questions, so consumers and health practitioners know what to expect when they interact with AHPRA and National Boards.

There are three videos:

The videos sit alongside other written resources available on our website, see:

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 FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn: use the hashtag #letstalkaboutit and tag @AHPRA.

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Legislative amendments on mandatory reporting and fake practitioners

The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) (the Act) has been passed by the Queensland Parliament. The amendments include revisions to the mandatory reporting requirements for treating practitioners and an extension of sanctions for statutory offences.

The changes to the National Law1 intend to support registered practitioners to seek help for a health issue (including mental health issues). They will also increase the penalties (including the introduction of custodial sentences) for some offences under the National Law, including where a person holds themselves out to be a registered health practitioner when they are not.

AHPRA and National Boards will now work to implement these amendments. This will require working closely with professional bodies, employers and state and territory health departments to spread the message that practitioners should be supported to seek help about their health issues.

The passing of the Act in Queensland marks the second set of legislative amendments to the National Law since the start of the National Scheme in 2010.

When they take effect, the amendments will apply in all states and territories except Western Australia, where their mandatory reporting requirements will not change.

Practitioners can read a news item about the amendments on the AHPRA website or the Act on the Queensland Legislation website.

1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), as in force in each state and territory.

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Titles in health advertising – how to get it right

A new resource to help practitioners understand their legal obligations when using titles in health advertising addresses the uncertainty some psychologists might have around this issue.

Misuse of a protected title, specialist title or endorsements is an offence under sections 113-119 of the National Law or may constitute behaviour for which health, conduct or performance action may be taken against a registered health practitioner under Part 8 of the National Law.

However, advertisers should also be aware that while use of some titles may not necessarily breach title protections under sections 113-119, they may be considered false, misleading or deceptive under the advertising provisions in the National Law (section 133).

The titles tool will help practitioners understand how titles can be used in advertising. It also outlines some of the common pitfalls that can result in titles being considered misleading under the National Law.

The titles tool is the latest in a series of resources and support materials developed by AHPRA and National Boards to help health practitioners, healthcare providers and other advertisers of regulated health services check and correct their advertising so it complies with the National Law.

The titles tool is available in the Advertising resources section of the AHPRA website.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Psychology Board website for information on the National Scheme and for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines, policies and fact sheets.
  • Lodge an enquiry form via the website by following the Contact us link on the bottom of every page.
  • For registration enquiries call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9275 9009 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Rachel Phillips, Chair, Psychology Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958 Melbourne VIC 3001.

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Follow AHPRA on social media

Connect with AHPRA on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to receive information about important topics for your profession and participate in the discussion.

Page reviewed 12/04/2019