The COVID-19 pandemic had significant implications for our work as a national regulatory scheme. We’ve done everything we can to continue our focus on patient and public safety, while supporting health practitioners and the health systems in which they work.
We’ve made many operational and policy changes to ensure we are responsive and regulating health practitioners effectively. Many of our hardworking staff have continued to work remotely through lockdowns. National Boards and committees have worked online throughout the year.
Despite these challenges, the number of registered health practitioners has increased by 3% to 825,720. Through partnerships with education providers, accreditation authorities and National Boards, students have been able to graduate with the required clinical experience. More than 41,500 graduates were registered in our most successful graduate registration campaign ever.
We continued our temporary pandemic sub-register, which has shifted in focus to provide access to health practitioners to support the vaccine program. Border restrictions have meant fewer internationally trained health practitioners were able to come to Australia. We continued to work closely with governments, professional groups and other stakeholders to respond to workforce needs.
Registered health practitioners are rightly some of the most trusted professions in Australia. Most health practitioners practise safely and well – 98.4% of all registered health practitioners did not have any concerns reported about their conduct, health or performance.
The number of notifications we received decreased by just under 1% to just over 10,000. After assessment, and investigation when required, regulatory action was taken on 14.2% of all notifications completed. Of practitioners with notifications received this year, nearly 62% were the subject of one for the first time; around 38% had had a notification made about them before.
We recognise the significant stress experienced by health practitioners who have a notification made about them and by those who make that notification. We continue to implement improvements to our processes, communication, timeframes and access to information and support services. We improved the confidentiality safeguards for notifiers. We published a framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious notifications. Also we significantly overhauled our approach to assessment and investigation to ensure a sharper focus on risks that may require regulatory action.
Students are the health practitioners of the future and our work with accreditation authorities is an important focus. We embraced the policy direction from the Ministerial Health Council to establish a new accreditation committee to provide independent and expert advice on accreditation systems reform.
Improving cultural safety and eliminating racism in the health system is a vital part of our commitment to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. We are enormously proud that we were able to start to roll out the Moong-moong-gak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety training for staff and Board and committee members.
The work of the National Scheme not only involves close partnership between Ahpra and the 15 National Boards, but also collaboration with governments, professional and consumer organisations, and health services to keep the public safe.
Board and committee members have gone to great effort to ensure flexible and appropriate regulatory decisions to support the health workforce.
We particularly want to acknowledge and thank Ahpra staff who have demonstrated such commitment, resilience and flexibility in a challenging and uncertain year. Tested by the pandemic, we have seen teams come together like never before, collaborating to solve problems at pace. You will read some of their stories and achievements throughout this report.
Staff and Board and committee members have demonstrated a deep commitment to doing all they can to meet our mandate to protect the public and sustain a health workforce for Australia.
Few of us could have anticipated COVID-19 and its ongoing impact. In so many ways registered health practitioners have done exceptional work in very challenging times. They have our admiration and thanks.
Mr Martin Fletcher
Chief Executive Officer, Ahpra
Ms Gill Callister PSM
Co-convenor, Forum of National Registration and Accreditation Chairs
Chair, Agency Management Committee, Ahpra
Mr Brett Simmonds
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia