To improve the lives of our First Peoples – the oldest continuous civilisation on earth – is to improve the lives of all Australians. And we, as health professionals, have a crucial role to play. In this issue, we outline our commitment and actions as a National Board to closing the gap in health outcomes between First Peoples and other Australians, particularly through improving access to psychological services.
We have also completed two major projects that will simplify life for students, interns and registered psychologists – and for educators and employers.
New guidelines for the national psychology exam are published and in effect, simplifying and clarifying the requirements. You can read more about the changes and benefits in this issue.
We have announced the retirement of the 4+2 internship pathway to general registration, with a comprehensive transition plan leading up to the retirement date of 1 January 2029: see the details below.
Chair, Psychology Board of Australia
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Our commitment to improving the health outcomes of Australia’s First Peoples
To improve the lives of our First Peoples – the oldest continuous civilisation on earth – is to improve the lives of all Australians. Australia’s community and individual wellbeing is underpinned by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ strong and enduring connection to family, land, and culture. National and state Closing the Gap initiatives aim to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing. The current and future potential of the health professions in supporting these initiatives cannot be understated.
Closing the gap by 2031: A shared commitment is the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) Statement of Intent (2018) to help achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians by 2031. In close partnership with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and experts, the National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) are committed to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have access to health services that are safe and free from racism.
Over the past year the Psychology Board of Australia has started a journey to better understand how health regulation standards and guidelines can best support access to psychological services. Most National Board members have completed an introductory course on cultural capability delivered by the Australian Indigenous Psychology Association (AIPA). Board members are also taking part in the National Scheme Health Equity Strategy and are developing a psychology-specific health equity strategy.
We have also met with the senior leaders of the AIPA and more recently with a group of Aboriginal psychologists and other psychologists working in Darwin and surrounding communities. We heard about their commitment to influencing change in local communities and listened to the opportunities to change health and education policy. Consequently, the Board understands the need for more culture-informed psychology education and training across Australia, to improve the supply of psychologists working with Aboriginal communities. Actions speak louder than words, and we look forward to working in partnership to create positive and enduring change for our First Peoples.
The Board has announced that the 4+2 internship pathway to general registration will be retired.
On 3 April 2019, the Ministerial Council approved the revised General registration standard and Provisional registration standard removing the 4+2 internship as a pathway to general registration. The revised standards will take effect on 1 January 2029.
30 June 2022 – The last day that the Board will accept applicants to begin a 4+2 internship program (the +2 internship).
30 June 2027 – The last day that a person who has completed the 4+2 internship program can apply for general registration.
1 January 2029 – The date the new General registration standard and Provisional registration standard take effect. The new registration standards will no longer refer to the 4+2 internship program, and the 4+2 internship pathway to general registration will be retired.
The Board has implemented a fair and equitable transition timeframe to retire the 4+2 internship pathway.
A future date of retirement allows current students enough lead-time to complete their fourth-year qualification and apply to become an intern before the deadline (30 June 2022), and enough time for interns to complete the internship program (by 30 June 2027). It also allows for administration time to complete applications before the 4+2 pathway is retired on 1 January 2029.
Consistent with the Extended leave provisions for provisional psychologists, the Board will consider extension to the five-year maximum to complete the two-year internship on a case-by-case basis. Leave may be approved for a maximum of twelve months from the date of renewal of registration. All applications for extension must be approved by the Board before 30 June 2027 and cannot extend beyond 31 December 2028.
Retirement of the 4+2 internship pathway for general registration is for future new registration only.
If you completed the 4+2 internship pathway and hold general registration you will not be affected by the retirement of the 4+2 internship. You will continue to be eligible for general registration under section 53(d) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
This means that a psychologist who was previously registered based on holding a 4+2 qualification can remain registered, even if, for example, there has been a period of non-practising registration or a registration lapse.
To reiterate, psychologists who are four-year trained (and even those who gained registration in the 1950s and 1960s with three years of training) will not have their registration status affected by the retirement of the 4+2 internship.
While the 4+2 internship pathway has a long history of serving the profession and employers well, and has produced many high-quality practitioners, the pathway is no longer fit-for-purpose in the current or future context. We expect retirement of the pathway to have the following benefits:
The Board conducted wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders between 2015 and 2018 on the proposal to retire the 4+2 internship pathway to general registration. This included:
Most stakeholders, including government stakeholders, strongly supported the proposal, including supporting the proposed revised registration standards.
Consultation feedback showed a range of preferences on the favoured date for retirement. There was no clear transition timeframe supported by all stakeholders. After consideration, the Board has agreed with stakeholders who suggested a longer timeframe is appropriate.
We would like to thank government, the psychology profession, employers and supervisors, training providers, students, interns, and the community for their engagement and feedback to the consultation process.
For more information visit Retirement of the 4+2 internship on our website.
The Board recently carried out a public consultation on proposed updates to the Guidelines for the national psychology exam (the guidelines). As a result of the consultation the following changes have been made:
This means graduates from higher degree programs do not need to sit the exam. Candidates seeking registration through the non-accredited pathways (4+2 and 5+1 internship pathways) and overseas-trained applicants are still required to pass the exam.
The permanent exemption will:
Because the temporary exemption has been in place since 2013 and wasn’t due to expire until 31 December 2019, the Board decided against a transition period and has made the permanent exemption operational immediately.
There is now a policy document (a revised guideline) and an operational document (a new manual for candidates enrolled to sit the exam).
Separating the policy and operational information makes it easier for candidates to better prepare for the exam. We have improved the clarity and simplicity of the information and made it easier to access.
The documents were published on 19 July and are now in effect. Exam candidates are encouraged to read both documents carefully as part of their study and preparation.
This ensures all exam resources are in one place and will make it easier for candidates to find information.
The revised guidelines and new manual are published on the Board’s National psychology exam page.
The consultation paper and public submissions are available on the Board’s Past consultations page.
The Board, along with three other National Boards, has published its revised professional indemnity insurance (PII) arrangements registration standard, which will start on 1 December 2019 and replace the existing standard.
The Council of Australian Government (COAG) Health Council approved the revised standard 30 June 2019.
The main change to the standard is that it no longer sets a minimum amount of PII cover. Practitioners are still required to do an objective self-assessment of their practice and should also seek advice from their insurer on the level of cover that is adequate and appropriate for their practice.
Additionally, the standard continues to clarify that run-off cover is required for matters that are not already covered, but now requires ‘appropriate’ run-off cover, rather than run-off cover for at least seven years. It also introduces information about the circumstances in which a practitioner is not required to have PII arrangements.
The revised standard will apply to applicants for renewal and applicants for initial registration. The revised standard is being rolled out to align with the renewal cycle, which will allow practitioners time to meet the requirements of the new standard.
The standard was revised after a scheduled review, which included public consultation. The consultation report provides a summary of the consultation process and rationale for any changes.
You can find this report and other resources about the revised standard on AHPRA’s Registration standards>PII page.
A page dedicated to advertising resources for registered health practitioners is now available on the Board’s website.
Since the launch of the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme in April 2017, several helpful tools and examples of non-compliant advertising have been published in the Advertising resources section of the AHPRA website.
To help visitors to the Psychology Board of Australia website quickly locate information for practitioners about advertising, including the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services, we have published a new page – Advertising a regulated health service – that links directly to all advertising resources relevant to psychologists.
This information is easily reached via the homepage of the Board’s website by clicking on the promo tile, ‘Advertising your health service: How to comply with the National Law’.
Website analysis shows that advertising resources developed by the National Boards and AHPRA are accessed regularly. Resources being downloaded as PDFs include the tool on using titles in health advertising and the tool explaining why testimonials are prohibited. A good resource to use when you check and correct your advertising to ensure it complies with National Law1 requirements is the self-assessment tool.
The National Law includes provisions about advertising regulated health services to protect consumers. If you are advertising a regulated health service2, your advertising must not:
We encourage you to read the advertising resources to ensure you are meeting your legal and professional obligations when advertising a regulated health service.
Our primary role is public protection and we aim to do this through a risk-based approach to regulation, taking action proportionate to the risks to public health and safety we have identified. Our goal is to ensure advertising about regulated health services is done responsibly to keep the public safe from false or misleading claims and to help them make informed decisions about their healthcare. If you are unsure about your advertising obligations you should refer to our published information and/or seek independent advice from your legal adviser.
1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).
2 A regulated health service means a service provided by, or usually provided by, a health practitioner (as defined in the National Law).
Earlier this year, AHPRA launched a series of 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.
A new video has just been added to the series, to help tackle the fear of notifications: A notification was made about me: A practitioner’s experience.
This unscripted video is an honest, first-hand account of a health practitioner’s experience of what it is like to be the subject of a notification to AHPRA. The medical practitioner featured agreed to participate to share her experience and reflections with other practitioners in her situation. In particular, she reflects that she wishes she had reached out for help sooner.
Getting support early is important for any practitioner going through the notifications process, as many practitioners tell us that the notification process is very stressful. A good support network is essential.
There are now four 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.
From 1 July, the law is getting 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.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said 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.
‘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,’ Mr Fletcher said.
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.
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’.
Read more in the media release on AHPRA’s website.
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 for 16 professions 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 a number of 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 more in the media release on AHPRA’s website.
In April, AHPRA officially launched as a designated World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Health Workforce Regulation in the Western Pacific Region.
AHPRA, working in partnership with the National Boards, joins a list of over 800 institutions in more than 80 countries supporting WHO programs in areas such as nursing development, communicable diseases, mental health, chronic diseases and health technologies.
Strengthening the regulation of the health workforce is an important part of the WHO’s global strategy to build the human resources needed for access to safe and quality healthcare across the world.
AHPRA and National Boards are excited by the opportunity to share expertise and promote dialogue that collectively improves the standard of regulatory practice within the WHO Western Pacific Region. The global health workforce crosses country borders and is mobile, including in Australia where thousands of overseas-qualified practitioners are registered and take up practice here. It’s important that regulators from different countries work together to set the standards for practitioner education, competence and conduct necessary for the global health workforce to deliver safe and reliable healthcare.
As a WHO collaborating centre AHPRA will:
Read more about the collaboration on the AHPRA website.
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