Issue 29 - November 2020
The Osteopathy Board thanks all osteopaths, students and education providers for their resilience and patience in dealing with the adversities of 2020. I would like to thank you for your ongoing professionalism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the public have been able to safely access urgent and essential osteopathy care when they needed it. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday and festive period.
Early in 2021, there will be advertisements to fill four scheduled Board vacancies for a practitioner member from Queensland and three community members. The vacancies will be advertised on the Ahpra website, where you can also find out more information about National Board recruitment.
Dr Nikole Grbin
Chair, Osteopathy Board of Australia
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While the profession manages our 'new normal' caused by COVID-19, all osteopaths must continue to practise safely and exercise their professional judgement in assessing and managing risk.
You must remain vigilant as you have an important role in helping to contain the spread of COVID-19. This means continuing to take effective measures, such as appropriate patient screening, and meeting infection control obligations as outlined in the Board’s guidelines.
You must continue to take a risk-based approach to your clinical practice and consider local conditions to determine how to practise safely in your environment. It is important to maintain high levels of professionalism and adhere to the Board’s Code of conduct.
You should consider the current risk environment and public safety when making decisions about the osteopathy care you provide. It is also important to stay up to date with state and territory government public health directions. This includes: having a COVID Safe Plan (e.g. for employers in Victoria); getting tested; and abiding by directions while waiting for and after results.
Each year the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards publish an annual report and the Osteopathy Board publishes a separate snapshot of the osteopathy profession. Please take a look at our summary of statistics and regulation activities for 2019/20 in our news item.
Osteopaths are due to renew their general or non-practising registration by 30 November 2020 and online renewal is the quickest and easiest way to renew.
If you do not renew your registration by 30 November 2020, or within the following one-month late period, your registration will lapse. Your name will be removed from the national register of practitioners and you will not be able to practise without making a new application for registration.
Ahpra and National Boards are working with government, health services and others to support health practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have adapted our regulatory approach to support you in these exceptional circumstances. Your registration fees go directly to funding this work and regulating for safety in your profession. We sincerely thank you for your continuing commitment and professionalism.
We encourage you to continue to do continuing professional development (CPD) that is relevant to your scope of practice and your current work environment. However, we understand that some health practitioners may have trouble meeting the CPD requirements during this challenging time.
This also applies to the recency of practice requirements.
You should answer all renewal questions honestly and accurately. Ahpra and the Osteopathy Board will not take action if you declare that you could not meet the CPD and/or recency of practice requirements for the 2020 registration period as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A payment plan is available for health practitioners experiencing genuine financial hardship due to COVID-19. If you meet the criteria, you will be eligible to pay half your registration fee now and make a second payment in the first half of 2021.
The payment plan has been developed in response to the exceptional circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic presents. When making decisions about financial hardship applications, Ahpra and National Boards will consider the financial sustainability of the National Scheme to continue to protect the public balanced with the circumstances of individual applicants and access to the workforce.
How to apply for the financial hardship payment plan:
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You will be required to complete a new declaration that 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 and will include auditing of health practitioners to check advertising compliance.
Paper certificates are no longer issued but you can print a registration certificate from your online services account after you’ve renewed. You can also download your tax receipt.
As a student or recent graduate, now is the time to start reviewing your use of social media and understand that inappropriate use of social media can result in harm to patients and the profession. See our October newsletter for a reminder about the appropriate use of social media during the pandemic.
In using social media, you should be aware of your obligations under the National Law and the Board’s Code of conduct. For more information see: Social media: How to meet your obligations under the National Law.
Ahpra has released its 2019/20 annual report highlighting our regulatory work with National Boards and our response to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahpra and National Boards have worked closely with accreditation authorities, governments and our partners to ensure we play our part fully in supporting health practitioners and the wider health system response to COVID-19.
2020 marked the tenth year of national registration. Australia now has more than 800,000 registered health practitioners. This figure includes around 35,000 recently retired health practitioners in eight professions who were returned to registration as part of our pandemic sub-register to support the health system response to COVID-19.
Regulation can never stand still. COVID-19 meant that Ahpra became a virtual organisation within weeks. We also worked with National Boards to introduce many changes to allow our regulatory work to continue and provided flexibility where it was safe. This included updated guidance about issues such as telehealth services, scope of practice and CPD requirements.
Maintaining public safety remained paramount across all our regulatory work. We implemented changes to the National Law on mandatory reporting, initiated an independent review of our management of sexual boundary notifications and continued our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners to eliminate racism from the health system and ensure cultural safety.
Insights from the year include:
To view and download the 2019/20 annual report, visit the Ahpra website.
Ahpra marked NAIDOC Week 2020 by releasing our inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy 2020-2025 (the Employment Strategy).
The goal of the Employment Strategy is to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation within Ahpra through the development of a culturally safe work environment that reflects the diversity of the communities in which we operate and serve. It is a major component of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020–2025, which aims to improve cultural safety, increase workforce participation, strive for greater access and close the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians.
The Employment Strategy contains five priority areas to help achieve our goal:
The Employment Strategy recognises the need to build the cultural capability of all Ahpra employees to enable a proactive and leadership approach. We have an opportunity to address systemic challenges now by investing in and nurturing long-term relationships. We encourage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to seek employment and a career with Ahpra.
For more information and a link to the document, read the media release.
National Boards and Ahpra stand for safe, professional healthcare practice.
All health practitioners and the workplaces at which they practise have roles to play in ensuring public safety. We are improving the way we manage our regulatory investigations about practitioners to better account for our collective responsibilities.
We know that the public are best protected when we support practitioners and their employers to improve safety and professionalism in the delivery of health services. Our efforts and resources should better focus on matters where there are gaps in safe practice that create ongoing risk to the public.
Our revised approach, in place now, aims to improve the experience of notifiers and practitioners by completing most investigations faster. There is a stronger focus on speaking directly to the practitioner. This is so we can gather early information about the practitioner’s individual practice, reflection and their actions in response to notified events. This is key to:
Practitioners can help with this by:
We also want to understand what a practitioner’s workplace has done in response to the events.
The level of information we need to gather is more wide ranging when the concerns raised could constitute professional misconduct. This includes boundary violations, criminal and unethical behaviour, and significant departure from acceptable standards.
The National Board will take action in response to a concern, when the actions of an individual practitioner and/or their workplaces are not sufficient, to ensure we can prevent the same thing happening again.
More information is available on the Ahpra Concerns about practitioners webpage.
Health practitioners are encouraged to check and correct their advertising to make sure it complies with revised guidelines before they take effect on 14 December 2020.
The National Boards and Ahpra have jointly revised the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service (the guidelines) as part of a scheduled review in line with good regulatory practice.
The guidelines aim to help registered health practitioners, and other advertisers, advertise responsibly so that the public receives accurate and clear information about regulated health services.
Changes to the guidelines include:
The National Boards and Ahpra have also updated the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme following an evaluation in 2019. The strategy was launched in 2017 to improve voluntary compliance with the advertising requirements and to introduce a new enforcement approach to non-compliance.
We have published a new guide explaining how National Boards and Ahpra apply the National Law in the management of notifications about a practitioner’s performance, conduct or health. The guide aims to make it easier to understand how and why decisions are made.
The Regulatory guide and an executive summary are available on the Corporate publications page on the Ahpra website.
In June, we welcomed the independent review by the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner of the confidentiality safeguards in place for individuals making notifications about registered health practitioners.
The Review of confidentiality safeguards for people making notifications about health practitioners was conducted at Ahpra’s request following the conviction of a general practitioner for the attempted murder of a pharmacist who had made a notification about his prescribing practices.
It examined Ahpra’s current management of confidential and anonymous notifications and whether there were ways in which safeguards could be strengthened to ensure the safety of notifiers.
The review found that Ahpra’s practices for managing confidentiality and anonymity were reasonable and consistent with the practices of other regulators internationally. However, there were improvements that could be made.
The review makes practical recommendations for strengthening the protection of notifiers while recognising the importance of fairness for health practitioners who are the subject of a notification. We have accepted all 10 recommendations and outlined a timeline to adopt these changes. For more information and links to the documents, read the media release.