Psychology Board of Australia - November 2021
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November 2021


Issue 32 - November 2021

From the Chair

Rachel Phillips

A growing workforce to meet community demand

In November 2010, 24,455 psychologists transitioned to a single national register. As of 30 September 2021, there were 34,455 psychologists with general registration in Australia. This 40 per cent increase in workforce numbers since 2010 is a result of more Australian students than ever choosing a professional psychologist training pathway: in 2010 there were 4,309 provisional psychologists, compared to 6,519 in the latest report. Visit the Board’s Statistics page to read the report.

Rachel Phillips

Chair, Psychology Board of Australia

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Board news

Online renewal for psychologists is now open

Psychologists have until 30 November 2021 to renew their general or non-practising registration.

Look out for an email from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) providing access to online renewal. You’re encouraged to renew early to avoid delays – it might save you a call to Ahpra during the busy renewal period!

Ready to renew?

Read the renewal FAQs on the Ahpra website for helpful tips and more information on what you need to do to renew.

We cover common questions on professional indemnity insurance, recency of practice, continuing professional development, and what to do if you have a change in your criminal history or health impairments you need to tell us about.

What’s different this year?

Embedding cultural safety in the ways we work
The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy aims to make patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples the norm. We strive to embed cultural safety in the ways we work within the National Scheme too.

From 2021, you’ll be asked if you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander when you renew your registration. This will help us continue to develop culturally safe ways of working.

Renewal is now online only with changes to payment options
We’ve moved to online only for general and non-practising registration renewal. Over 99 per cent of health practitioners already renew online, it’s the quickest and easiest way to renew.

Renewal fees can be paid by credit/debit card. If you do not have a credit/debit card you can purchase a pre-paid debit card from various retail outlets for a nominal fee. BPay is no longer available for any profession.

Advertising declaration and audit
Proactive advertising audits have now started. If you are renewing your general registration, you’ll be asked to declare that, if you are advertising health services, 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. This approach includes auditing health practitioners to check advertising compliance.

Continuing to support health practitioners during COVID-19

What if I can’t meet the CPD requirements because of COVID-19?
The Board expects you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required continuing professional development (CPD). However, we understand that some practitioners may have had trouble fully meeting CPD, particularly any face-to-face requirements, due to the impacts of COVID-19. CPD is important as it helps maintain competence and supports safe and effective care.

The Board will not take action if you have not been able to complete CPD for the 2020–21 registration period due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 and you declare on your renewal application that you have not met the CPD registration standard.

It’s important that you answer all questions honestly and accurately when completing your registration renewal and declare that you have not met the CPD requirements if that is the case. If you declare that you did not meet the CPD standard the Board may request evidence in the future of what you have done to address any identified gaps in your CPD learning needs, such as interactive or face-to-face requirements.

Given the importance of CPD and the increasing availability of flexible and COVID-safe CPD options, you will be expected to fully meet the requirements in future and when renewing in 2022. Interactive CPD can be completed virtually and COVID-related learning activities can be counted towards CPD.

If you have not met the requirements due to the impacts of COVID-19 you should update your CPD plan to explain how you will address any resulting learning needs, such as your face-to-face or interactive requirements, in the next registration period. The Board expects you to access any specific training as soon as you are able, such as scheduling face-to-face activities when available.

For more information, see the news item.

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Registration fee decreased for 2021-22

The Board has announced the national registration fee for psychologists for 2021-22.

  • The Board has decreased the registration fee for psychologists by 10 per cent to $437.
  • The fee for practitioners whose principal place of practice is New South Wales (a co-regulatory jurisdiction) is $352.

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

The Board is committed to keeping the fee as low as possible, while meeting its regulatory obligations to protect the public. The Board acknowledges that this continues to be a challenging time for health practitioners and sincerely thanks practitioners for their important role in keeping the community safe and healthy.

Financial hardship

Ahpra and the Board recognise the effect that the lockdowns may have had. The Board has put in place a registration and renewal fee payment plan for practitioners experiencing financial hardship. To read more about the payment plan, see the Consideration of financial hardship page.

Read more in the news item.

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Last cohort of 4+2 interns: how supervisors can help

We want to remind supervisors that the last day that the Board will accept applications for provisional registration to undertake a two-year internship is 30 June 2022. This is a hard deadline, and no new applications for the 4+2 internship will be accepted after this date.

We ask supervisors to encourage and advise students who wish to start a 4+2 internship program to apply for their internship by this deadline. Students who wish to be in the final cohort of the 4+2 internship program need to complete the following tasks to ensure they meet the deadline:

  • complete all fourth-year units by the end of 2021 (or over summer at the latest)
  • secure an internship as early as possible
  • complete any activities needed to meet the registration standards, and
  • apply for provisional registration via the 4+2 internship pathway as early as possible in 2022.

For further information please visit the Board’s 4+2 retirement webpage.

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National psychology exam dual-delivery option extended for 2022

The national psychology exam will be available through dual delivery for the four exam sittings during 2022: February, May, August and November.

This means that you can choose to sit the exam in a test centre (where available) or by online proctoring (OLP) which allows for secure delivery of the exam via the internet in your home or workplace.

Test centre availability is expected to continue to be variable throughout 2022, with businesses not yet returning to their pre-COVID-19 offerings. We are continuing to work with our test provider to increase the number of test centres available (in accordance with public health directives).

During these uncertain times, our priority is to provide flexibility for provisional psychologists to choose the exam delivery method that best suits their circumstances.

For further information on the exam please visit the exam webpage.

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Education and training reform update

In 2019, we began a comprehensive review of the existing professional competency standards for psychologists in Australia as part of the education and training reform (ETR) program of work.

Its purpose is to review and refresh the professional competency standards to maintain their relevance to the expectations of threshold competencies required for safe and effective contemporary psychology practice in Australia.

The competencies for general registration are being reviewed first, and then area of practice endorsement.

Our initial review of current competencies for general registration, including mapping against international standards, has shown that the Working with diverse groups competency does not place an adequate emphasis on culturally safe care and is not sufficiently aligned to the National Scheme's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-25 (the Health Strategy).

We are seeking advice from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychology groups on developing competencies for culturally safe and trauma-informed care that will help close the gap and ensure that psychologists have the required competencies to deliver safe, accessible and responsive care, free of racism.

Once a set of draft revised competencies for general registration have been developed and approved by the Board, we will conduct our usual wide-ranging public consultation to seek your feedback.

The consultation process that the 15 National Boards must follow is publicly available on the Ahpra website. Our consultations are published on our Current consultations page.

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Regulation at work

Latest tribunal and court summaries

We regularly publish court and tribunal summaries for their educational value for the profession. Here are recent tribunal cases.

Psychologist reprimanded, cancelled, disqualified and prohibited until 2026 for professional misconduct

A former Victorian psychologist has been reprimanded, had his registration cancelled, has been disqualified from applying for registration and prohibited from providing health services until February 2026 for engaging in professional misconduct.

Six notifications were received by the Board in 2015-2016 about Mr Phillip Myers’ conduct with four clients while he was registered as a psychologist during 2009-2010 and 2012-2016. It was alleged that Mr Myers transgressed professional boundaries, engaged in inappropriate billing practices (billing for consultations that did not occur), failed to provide good patient care and failed to maintain adequate and accurate clinical records in relation to the four clients.

Mr Myers was suspended by way of immediate action on 19 February 2016 by the Board and remained suspended as at the final hearing. Read more in the news item.

Psychologist reprimanded and conditions imposed for not holding PII and making false declarations

A Victorian psychologist has been reprimanded and a condition placed on his registration after he failed to hold appropriate professional indemnity insurance and made false declarations at renewal and audit. Read more in the news item.

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National Scheme news

Changes to notification management are coming to Queensland

Queensland will introduce joint consideration of all notifications about health practitioners between Ahpra, the National Boards and the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in December 2021.

The changes aim to speed up the initial assessment of notifications, which will benefit registered health practitioners and notifiers.

All notifications about psychologists in Queensland will continue to be received by the OHO. Currently, the OHO deals with the most serious matters it receives, and refers most of the remaining notifications to Ahpra and the Psychology Board of Australia.

From December, all notifications received by the OHO about psychologists will be shared with Ahpra and the Psychology Board when they are received. Ahpra and the OHO will review each notification at the same time and agree on which agency should manage the matter. All notifications that raise a concern about a dental practitioner’s performance will be reviewed by a dental practitioner clinical advisor.

The changes provide greater opportunity for earlier closure of concerns that do not need a regulatory response.

Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, said that the joint consideration approach would build on the strong relationship between the OHO, Ahpra and National Boards in managing notifications to support access to safe, professional practitioners for Queensland and Australia more broadly.

‘We’re looking forward to working even more closely with the OHO to ensure that notifications about health practitioners are assessed as quickly and consistently as possible,’ Mr Fletcher said.

‘This means a better experience both for health practitioners and notifiers.’

Relevant changes to Queensland legislation take effect on 6 December 2021 and all notifications from this date will be subject to joint consideration. For more information on how notifications are managed, see Ahpra's website.

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COVID-19 and vaccines: new joint statement helps sort fact from fiction

A joint statement has been released by Ahpra and the National Boards, the Health Care Complaints Commission, the Office of the Health Ombudsman and the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Its message is: You need reliable, evidence-based information to be able to make good choices about your healthcare. But in a climate thick with commentary about COVID-19 and vaccines, how do you sort fact from fiction?

The statement covers four main points:

  • Get advice from the experts (with a link to the public register of practitioners).
  • Be safe in the knowledge that registered health practitioners must meet national standards (with links to the National Boards’ websites).
  • Don’t get swayed by opinions.
  • Reach out to a trusted person, like your GP.

It also lists and links to reliable sources of information on COVID-19 and vaccinations in Australia to help people make sure they have the best, most accurate and evidence-based information for their specific needs when making decisions about their own or their loved ones’ health.

The statement has been translated into Arabic, Farsi, Greek, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese. These versions are available on Ahpra’s Translations page.

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Thousands more health practitioners now able to join the pandemic response

From 22 September, thousands of extra health practitioners, including psychologists, can join the COVID-19 response through a new temporary sub-register established by Ahpra and the National Boards.

Key points

  • Ahpra and National Boards have established a new pandemic response sub-register for 2021 (the 2021 sub-register).
  • Nearly 29,000 practitioners who recently stopped practising are now eligible to practise for up to 12 months.
  • This surge workforce will make more practitioners available to help with the pandemic response if they choose to do so.
  • Practitioners can opt out of the 2021 sub-register at any time and don't need to explain why.

The 2021 pandemic response sub-register was established in response to the changing needs of Australia’s health system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes 12 regulated health professions whose members can work to the full scope of their registration.

On the 2021 sub-register are key professions identified by governments in their pandemic response planning. These include medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists along with dental practitioners, diagnostic radiographers, occupational therapists, optometrists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists. Eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners are being added to the 2021 sub-register if they choose to opt in.

The extra health practitioners on the 2021 sub-register join 26,000 practitioners who are on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register first established in April 2020 and extended in April 2021 for a further 12 months.

What’s different about the new sub-register?

Those on the new 2021 sub-register can practise to the full scope of their registration, while practitioners on the 2020 pandemic sub-register are restricted to working in areas directly supporting the COVID-19 response, such as administering the COVID-19 vaccination or backfilling for furloughed staff.

Health service needs are constantly changing across Australia. The 2021 sub-register is a tool to help health authorities meet current workforce needs and those that might arise in the next 12 months.

Read more on Ahpra’s website.

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Updated regulatory principles – supporting trust and confidence in regulated health professions

We’ve updated our regulatory principles to foster a culturally safe, responsive and risk-based approach to regulation.

The regulatory principles guide the National Boards and Ahpra when making regulatory decisions.

The changes reflect community expectations and new policy directions from the Health Council, as well as feedback from public consultation. They recognise that community confidence in the regulation of health practitioners is key to a safe and effective health system.

Overall, the changes:

  • reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective of the National Scheme
  • recognise the role of the National Boards and Ahpra in developing a culturally safe and respectful health workforce
  • consider the risks to the public including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and members of the community who are vulnerable to harm
  • embed fairness and transparency, and
  • highlight the importance of maintaining community confidence in regulated health professions and working with consumer bodies to achieve this.

More information about the review of the regulatory principles is available on Ahpra’s website.

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New independent accreditation committee established

A new independent accreditation committee has been established by Ahpra in line with Health Ministers’ policy direction issued earlier this year and as a key element of Health Ministers’ response to the Independent review of accreditation systems final report.

The broad stakeholder membership of the committee will bring a wide range of perspectives to the new committee’s work, recognising the importance of professional and accreditation expertise as well as community, employer and education provider involvement.

Accreditation provides a framework for assuring that individuals seeking registration are suitably trained, qualified and competent to practise as health practitioners in Australia.

The new committee brings together a broad range of expertise that will help inform health practitioner education to support future workforce needs and protects the public. The committee’s terms of reference have been published on the Ahpra website.

Members have been appointed for a three-year term and have been drawn from categories identified by the Health Council, with the addition of a member who identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

Read more in the news item.

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Research and evaluation framework to embed strong research culture

National Boards and Ahpra have published the Research and evaluation framework, the guiding document that outlines how we prioritise, carry out, manage and assess research and evaluation.

The framework, which builds on the inaugural framework released in 2017, aims to further embed an ethical, transparent and accountable best practice research and evaluation culture within the National Scheme.

The framework covers all National Scheme research and evaluation activities including those led by Ahpra staff and external researchers and consultants. It includes information on:

  • research and evaluation principles
  • priorities
  • governance and practice
  • engagement and communication.

The framework can be viewed on 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 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Rachel Phillips, Chair, Psychology Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958 Melbourne VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 21/11/2022