Physiotherapy Board of Australia - April 2021
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April 2021

Issue 27 - April 2021

From the Chair

Welcome to 2021

Kim Gibson, Physiotherapy Board ChairThe Physiotherapy Board, like everyone else, is adjusting to working in the COVID-19 2021 environment. We continue to work and meet virtually, responding to the many issues that have arisen due to COVID-19, while focusing on the strategic objectives of the Board.

This includes considering a position on physiotherapy prescribing, reviewing the binational threshold statements and revising the supervision guidelines. We are also engaging nationally with practitioners and stakeholders through (virtual) events and webinars.

The Board is committed to ensuring our new graduates are well equipped with all the information and knowledge they need to meet their professional obligations and keep the public safe, so this year we will be holding a webinar that targets graduating students as they prepare to enter the profession.

Kim Gibson

Chair, Physiotherapy Board of Australia

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Board news

Registered practitioners and students: What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccination

The National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have published a joint statement to help registered health practitioners and students understand what’s expected of them in giving, receiving and advising on and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination.

Key points

Registered health practitioners have led the remarkable public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and we commend them for this sustained public health response. As the national vaccination program gets underway, registered health practitioners and students remain critical to this success by:

  • being vaccinated against COVID-19 unless medically contraindicated
  • being appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised, and
  • providing accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination including in social media and advertising.

The statement should be read in conjunction with the standards, codes, guidelines, position statements and other guidance. The Code of conduct explains the public health obligations of registered health practitioners, including participating in efforts to promote the health of the community and meeting obligations on disease prevention.

There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of anti-vaccination claims, including on social media and in advertising, may result in regulatory action. See the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service for further advice.

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Get to know your Board

Meet Sally Adamson, practitioner member from the Northern Territory

Image of Sally Adamson

What is your experience and background?

I started my career as a physiotherapist 21 years ago in northern Queensland after completing Bachelor degrees in exercise and sports science and physiotherapy in Adelaide. Since then, I’ve worked across a wide range of sectors including public and private hospitals, community health, residential and community care and private practice in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

For the past 17 years, I’ve lived in Darwin with my husband and we have two school-aged children. I’ve worked mainly in private practice and am the managing director and senior clinician of a private physiotherapy clinic in the NT.

I have been a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association since I graduated and have helped in the work to improve access to professional development for physiotherapists in the NT.

What attracted you to the role of practitioner member on the Board?

I saw some examples of poor practice around me and felt compelled to stand up and be part of fixing the problem and helping to improve best practice through regulation. This first term has been a learning curve! I had been on the Physio NT Board and was used to the reading and workload. Being on the National Board, I’ve gained more insight into the bigger picture of policy, guidelines and codes of conduct. I am on the Registration and Notifications Committee which is one of the things that attracts me to these Board-type roles.

What do you bring to the Board?

I bring a unique perspective, including the practical issues of the private practitioner, such as advertising and the regulation around private practice. I also have an understanding of rural and remote health and aged care.

What is the main focus of the Board for 2021?

Important work on the Board’s agenda includes the review of recency of practice, CPD guidelines and the code of conduct. Another goal is to develop a well-informed position on prescribing.

The sub-register for the COVID-19 pandemic was a big piece of work and the Board has supported the profession by modifying its regulatory approach during the pandemic.

We will also do more stakeholder engagement − we held our South Australian stakeholder event in February, which was well received. We definitely have a sense of what’s the ‘new normal’, how we need to work within that and how to move forward.

What are you passionate about?

Professionally, quality in physiotherapy practice, ethics, governances and social responsibility: I believe in checks and balances for physiotherapists in the public system and in private practice.

The provision of quality care for patients drives me more than anything. I developed an online learning platform for clinical and non-clinical staff to ensure compliance with professional standards and professional development requirements. I hope to use my Master of Business Administration to help me influence the ‘quality in healthcare’ landscape.

From a personal perspective? Spending time with my family, snow sports and camping.

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The pandemic sub-register will close from April 2021

The pandemic response sub-register (the sub-register) was established in April last year to provide a potential surge workforce during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was intended to provide a temporary return of additional, trained and suitable health practitioners in case more registered practitioners should be needed quickly as a result of the pandemic.

More than 34,736 practitioners opted to stay on the sub-register from eight professions, including 2,052 physiotherapists. The Board extends its sincere appreciation and thanks to all practitioners on the sub-register for being available to support Australia’s healthcare system and the health workforce during this very trying time.

While the need for the sub-register has reduced, it has been extended for some professions by request of the Australian Government to support the national COVID-19 vaccination effort. Medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners who are already on the sub-register will have their registration extended until 5 April 2022 and will be limited to helping with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Sub-register closing for physiotherapy

The pandemic sub-register will close on 21 April 2021 for physiotherapy. If you are on the sub-register you do not need to do anything to remove yourself from the sub-register as it will automatically close.

Eligible physiotherapists who used to have non-practising registration before going on the sub-register will be automatically returned to non-practising registration in April 2021.

Want to keep practising? Apply for registration through a transition pathway

Practitioners on the sub-register who would like to maintain general registration after it closes can apply for registration through a transition pathway. There is no application fee and a reduced registration fee as the remaining period of new registration will be less than 12 months.

Applicants still need to meet the National Board’s registration standards including criminal history, English language and recency of practice (time spent practising while on the sub-register can count towards the recency of practice requirements).

If you would like to apply for registration through this pathway, you must do so before 11.59pm on 21 April. If you miss the deadline, you will no longer hold registration and will need to apply through the standard registration process.

For more information, see the Ahpra FAQs.

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Registration renewal wrap-up: CPD, ROP and impairment declarations

Another successful registration renewal period has passed, marking 10 years of annual renewal under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). Online renewal is the easiest way to renew and since 2011 the number of practitioners who renew online has risen from 82 per cent to 97 per cent. Thanks to everyone who renewed their application on time and especially to those of you who got in early. Responding to the early email reminders to renew ensures plenty of time for your application to be assessed and for you to be contacted if follow-up is needed.

CPD and ROP requirements during COVID-19

The Board understands that some practitioners had trouble meeting the continuing professional development (CPD) and recency of practice (ROP) requirements in 2020 because of the national COVID-19 emergency.

If you declared in your 2020 renewal that you didn’t meet the CPD and/or ROP requirements because of COVID-19, there is no further action you need to take.

Return to normal for CPD

The Board is aware that there are many CPD activities that are COVID-safe options and many CPD programs and providers have now adapted their programs to be COVID-safe.

In 2021, the Board expects all physiotherapists to meet the requirements of the CPD standard ahead of renewing their registration. We encourage you to do CPD that is relevant to your scope of practice and your current work environment.

Impairment – when to declare

When renewing their registration, some practitioners are making declarations about impairments that we don’t need to know about. It’s only impairments that may detrimentally affect your ability to practise that you must declare.

Impairment means any physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence), that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to safely practise the profession.

You don’t need to include such things as wearing glasses or temporary injuries like a sprained wrist or ankle. If you’re unsure about whether your impairment should be declared, do let us know when you renew.

If you do have an impairment that either detrimentally affects or you think is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to practise, you must tell us about it and about what you’re doing to manage it.

You should provide documents outlining your current diagnosis and/or treatment plan and a statement from your treating health practitioner confirming your current fitness to practise.

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Latest workforce data released

The Board’s quarterly registration data report for 1 October to 31 December 2020 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 38,628 registered physiotherapists in Australia. Of these:

  • 36,808 had general registration
  • 1,059 had non-practising registration, and
  • there were 761 physiotherapists with limited registration, including those doing postgraduate training or supervised practice.

The 2,052 physiotherapists that are part of the short-term pandemic response sub-register are included in the number of physiotherapists holding general registration.

For more data, including registrant numbers by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.

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Regulation at work

Latest court and tribunal cases

We regularly publish court and tribunal summaries for their educational value for the profession. Links to past and recent cases can be found on the News and updates page on the Board’s website. Here are recent cases.

Man convicted of holding out individuals as health practitioners at aged care facilities

A man who allowed unregistered individuals to provide occupational therapy and physiotherapy services to aged care residents in Victoria pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court of Victoria following charges. brought by Ahpra. Read more.

Former physiotherapist who kept practising found guilty of 29 offences

A West Australian man who held himself out as a physiotherapist while not registered has been convicted by the Perth Magistrates Court. Read more.

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Students and graduates

Graduating soon? Here’s what you need to know about registration

If you’re set to complete your course within the next three months, apply now!

See the Board’s website for everything you need to know, including helpful tips, links to guidance documents and our video for graduating students.

You can apply for registration online via the Ahpra website or the Board’s website. You’ll need to provide evidence that you meet the registration standards for criminal history, English language skills and professional indemnity insurance (PII).

Avoid delays with your application

It’s important that you provide correctly certified photo ID documents with your application. To get it right the first time download the guide Certifying documents: instructions for applicants and authorised officers from the Board’s website and take it with you to the authorised officer.

Be sure to include:

  • complete criminal history disclosures
  • complete information about any health impairment (and how you’re managing it),
  • information on how you meet the English language standard.

This will help ensure your application is complete, so we don’t have to come back to you seeking clarification or more information.

Advice on how to apply as well as tips for avoiding common causes of delay can be found on the Graduate applications page on the Ahpra website. You can also visit the Student registration page of the Board’s website to view a special video about the registration process.

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National Scheme news

Reminder to check your advertising: auditing has started

Responsible advertising about regulated health services helps to keep the public safe from false or misleading claims and supports the public to make informed choices about their healthcare.

Make sure you check your advertising to ensure it complies with advertising requirements of the National Law.

When applying to renew their registration in 2020, health practitioners were asked to declare that, if they advertise, their advertising meets the advertising requirements of the National Law. Ahpra is now auditing compliance.

We recently began this proactive audit to supplement our complaints-driven approach. Non-compliant advertising will be addressed under the Advertising Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

The updated Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service are available to help practitioners and other advertisers understand their obligations when advertising a regulated health service.

A range of other resources are also available at the Advertising hub on the Ahpra website to help the public, practitioners and other advertisers understand the advertising requirements of the National Law. These include examples, frequently asked questions and additional information about acceptable evidence and testimonials.

We know health practitioners want to do the right thing and advertise responsibly. We encourage you to use the resources and information available to help ensure your advertising complies with the National Law.

Need more advice?

If you need advice about whether your advertising complies with the National Law, you may wish to seek this from your professional association, an independent legal adviser or indemnity insurer.

Ahpra and the National Boards cannot give advice or an opinion about advertising and cannot check or pre-approve advertising to see if it complies with the National Law and the advertising guidelines. This is because as statutory regulators our role is to enforce the law, not to provide legal advice to advertisers about how to advertise.

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Consultation on revised regulatory principles: have your say

The National Boards and Ahpra are seeking feedback on revised regulatory principles for the National Scheme.

The regulatory principles encourage a responsive, risk-based approach to regulation across all professions within the National Scheme. They also acknowledge the importance of community confidence and working with the professions to achieve good outcomes.

The draft revised regulatory principles reflect two recent policy directions issued by the COAG Health Council which provide a clear mandate to the National Boards and Ahpra to prioritise public protection in the work of the National Scheme.

We want the public to have trust and confidence in regulated health practitioners and to know that their safety is at the heart of everything we do in the National Scheme. The revised principles reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective.

The consultation is open until 18 May 2021. Feedback is invited from practitioners, stakeholders and the community.

Find out more about how to make a submission on the Consultations page on the Ahpra website.

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Ahpra rolls out cultural safety training for staff and boards

A key objective of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is to embed cultural safety in the National Scheme and the health system. A new, online and face-to-face education and training program for all Ahpra staff, board and committee members has begun state by state, starting in our Tasmanian office in Hobart.

The Moong moong-gak Cultural Safety Training Program is designed to provide members of the National Scheme with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply culturally safe work practices as these relate to their role as part of the National Scheme.

The program gives participants an opportunity to hear and learn from the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to reflect on their own behaviours, and their conscious and unconscious beliefs. Upon completion of the program, participants will be better prepared to engage in culturally safe practices, communication and behaviour, in order to contribute to more effective service delivery and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The cultural safety training will contribute to Ahpra employees’, Board members’ and practitioners’ ongoing critical reflection on their knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in providing safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.

We want all our people to embrace the training with an open mind and the ability to learn and unlearn!

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Ahpra’s new framework for dealing with vexatious notifications

What is known about vexatious complaints?

In 2017 Ahpra commissioned independent research that took the first international look at vexatious complaints. The report, Reducing, identifying and managing vexatious complaints, found that vexatious complaints account for less than one per cent of notifications received, and that there is greater risk of people not reporting concerns than of people making truly vexatious complaints.

The report also noted that being on the receiving end of any notification is a distressing experience for any health practitioner. Regulators need to have good processes for dealing with unfounded complaints quickly and fairly.

Ahpra’s vexatious complaints framework

Following recommendations made in the report, Ahpra developed A framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious notifications for staff and regulatory decision-makers. This will help us identify and manage potentially vexatious notifications. The framework outlines:

• the principles and features, significant impacts and potential indicators of vexatious notifications
• how to identify vexatious notifications, and
• what to do where there is a concern that a notification is vexatious.

We understand that practitioners who feel that they may be the subject of a vexatious notification are more likely to experience stress and anxiety. Our staff are equipped to identify and support these practitioners and to implement management strategies set out in our framework when a concern about vexatiousness is raised with us.

Need more help or information?

Our staff are here to help you before, during or after the notifications process. We encourage you to visit our General support services page where you can find the contact details for additional support services. You can also listen to Episode 1: Vexatious notifications, Taking care, Ahpra’s podcast and visit our Concerns about practitioners page for more information about notifications and links to the report and framework.

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New accreditation committee to be established

Ahpra will establish a new, independently chaired committee to consider key accreditation issues, in response to a new policy direction from the Health Council (formerly the COAG Health Council).

The new committee will have broad stakeholder membership to give independent and expert advice on accreditation reform issues to Ahpra’s Agency Management Committee. The new committee will replace Ahpra’s Accreditation Advisory Committee set up in 2020.

The Independent Review of Accreditation Systems (ASR) Final Report, Australia’s health workforce: strengthening the education foundation, recommended that Health Ministers issue the policy direction.

Ahpra and the National Boards welcomed the policy direction, which requires Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditation authorities to consider the new committee’s advice when exercising their functions under the National Law.

Under the policy direction, Ahpra, National Boards and accreditation authorities must document the outcome of their consideration of the new committee’s advice in meeting minutes, communiqués or other relevant formats.

Ahpra and National Boards will continue to work collaboratively with accreditation authorities through the Accreditation Liaison Group and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum.

The policy direction can be viewed on the Ahpra website.

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Podcast: Chief Health Officers Brett Sutton and Jeannette Young in the spotlight

Victorian CHO Prof Brett Sutton

Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series has a new episode. Talking to host Susan Biggar, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Adjunct Professor Brett Sutton, and Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, speak openly about their experience of leading during a pandemic, how they coped, and the impact on them and their families.

Dr Jeanette Young, CHO Qld

Brett Sutton speaks about the heavy burden of decision-making with such far-reaching consequences and the importance of his own family and other support mechanisms he relied on to handle the huge pressures. Jeannette Young discusses the fact that there was no rule book, the importance of her husband’s early retirement to support her and how she managed death threats.

Despite the intensity and seriousness of their work, both could see the lighter side of their unexpected celebrity status, a consequence of the unavoidable media spotlight.

Ahpra releases a new Taking care episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

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Want more information?

  • Visit the Board’s website for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9275 9009 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Kim Gibson, Chair, Physiotherapy Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 19/04/2021