Physiotherapy Board of Australia - July 2021
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July 2021

Issue 28 - July 2021

From the Chair

Welcome to 2021

Kim Gibson, Physiotherapy Board Chair

The Physiotherapy Board continues to work and meet virtually. We are responding to the many issues that have arisen for physiotherapists who are practising in ever changing environments. We’re continuing to make progress with our strategic projects despite the challenges posed by a global pandemic.

The Board has been engaging nationally with practitioners and stakeholders through (virtual) events and webinars, with recent online events with South Australian and NSW practitioners. We also held a webinar for students and recent graduates; see more information below. 

As part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy within the National Scheme, Board members and Ahpra staff have been doing cultural safety training as we work towards culturally safe regulation and building a culturally safe health workforce.

During this time of unpredictable events, restrictions and border closures it is more important than ever to ensure that you and your colleagues are well supported and have strategies in place for taking care of your wellbeing.

Kim Gibson

Chair, Physiotherapy Board of Australia

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Board news

No place for sexism, sexual harassment or gendered violence in healthcare

There is no place for sexism, sexual harassment or gendered violence in healthcare. Ahpra and National Boards want to remind registered health practitioners of their professional obligations and encourage speaking up about disrespectful behaviour and unprofessional conduct in healthcare.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards have published a joint statement, No place for sexism, sexual harassment or violence in healthcare.

Our expectations of practitioner conduct and respectful, professional behaviour, including maintaining appropriate professional boundaries, are set out in Physiotherapy Board of Australia’s Code of conduct.

Practitioners must always treat patients, consumers, students, employees and colleagues with respect. They must always communicate professionally and respectfully with and about others, including when using social media. Respect is a cornerstone of good, professional practice and it is fundamental to the Australian community’s trust in registered health practitioners.

There is no place for sexism, sexual harassment or gendered violence in healthcare. Ahpra and National Boards explicitly condemn this behaviour by registered health practitioners.

Ahpra and the National Boards encourage physiotherapists to speak up if they witness or experience disrespectful behaviour or unprofessional conduct. Together, we can all help build and maintain a culture of respect in healthcare that facilitates better patient outcomes and contributes to safer care.

Read our joint statement for more information about where and how to raise concerns about disrespectful behaviour and unprofessional conduct in healthcare. Concerns about a registered health practitioner’s unprofessional conduct, including sexual harassment, should be reported to Ahpra. For more information, visit the Ahpra website.

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South Australian stakeholder event recording now available

Ahpra and the Board held a South Australian stakeholder event on 25 February 2021. A recording of the virtual forum is now available on our website.

In partnership with the Ahpra South Australian office, the Board gave an update on the regulation of physiotherapists under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme), along with information on our standards, codes, guidelines and COVID-19 response. We recognise this information may be of interest to all physiotherapists.

Events are planned for other states and territories in the future.

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Get to know your Board

Meet Sheila Lennon, practitioner member from South Australia

Sheila Lennon

What is your experience and background?

I have worked as a neurological physiotherapist for over 40 years. I completed my undergraduate degree in Canada, an MSc in cognitive neuropsychology in London and my PhD in Belfast. I have worked in clinical practice, management, education and research in Canada, Switzerland, the UK and Australia. I am an emeritus professor of physiotherapy at Flinders University in Adelaide. I moved from Belfast 10 years ago as inaugural chair of physiotherapy to set up the new physiotherapy degree program at Flinders.

Transitioning into retirement, I work clinically for the MS society of SA and NT, monitor a new physiotherapy program in NZ for their Quality Assurance Agency and focus on my monthly commitments to the Board with some postgrad research supervision at Flinders Uni.

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

I wanted to give back to the profession that I love and continue to use my skills and experience - after all, 40 years in a profession is a long time! Gaining a wider perspective on registration, notifications and accreditation from a regulation perspective for public safety has helped me contribute through a different lens.

What do you bring to the Board?

An academic perspective related to higher education, students and accreditation issues having gained accreditation for undergraduate and Master's pre-registration courses in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. I love developing policy and guidelines in line with evidence-based practice and learning new skills in applying these in line with the National Law. Learning so much about issues from other Board members and our community members who are teachers, lawyers and rural Australians has been invaluable.

As an overseas trained practitioner, I have first-hand experience of what it is like to gain registration and integrate myself into new cultural contexts.

What is the main focus of the Board for 2021?

Our main strategic initiatives are developing a position on prescribing, engagement with key stakeholders, workforce development, and building a culturally safe workforce, as well as updating the Australian and New Zealand threshold standards. I have taken a special interest in engagement and workforce issues. The Board is also discussing the Royal Commissions on Aged Care and the NDIS.

Collaborating with the other 14 National Boards to improve public safety and agreeing on interprofessional ways of approaching issues is very rewarding.

What are you passionate about?

I love my profession and would like to see more equity and access to high quality physiotherapy services and healthcare. I want to encourage more First Nations people to become physiotherapists. It is an exciting time to be a Board member with the launch of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy within the National Scheme.

Easing into retirement, my husband and I have more time now to travel (domestically). I am passionate about the climate emergency and social justice issues. I try and do my part as an individual, to lead a minimalist lifestyle to reduce consumerism and protect the environment. 

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Information for practitioners on the voluntary assisted dying law in Western Australia

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) (the Act) will be proclaimed and come into full effect from 1 July 2021. Registered health practitioners need to be aware of the Act and its requirements. There are some provisions that are relevant to all registered health practitioners (and healthcare workers) and some provisions that are more specifically relevant to medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and paramedics.

Resources, including the WA Voluntary Assisted Dying Guidelines, have been developed by the WA Department of Health and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Leadership Team in collaboration with stakeholders.

The following resource provides a starting point for health practitioners in understanding their obligations, responsibilities and protections under the Act:

You can find more information on the website.

Information for practitioners on changes to Queensland Criminal Code: Child Sexual Offences

As of 5 July 2021, Queensland’s Criminal Code Act 1899 is amended under the Criminal Code (Child Sexual Offences Reform) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 to include two new offences (Criminal Code, Chapter 22 – Offences against morality):

  • ss. 229BB – Failure to protect a child from a sexual offence: will make it an offence to fail to protect a child from a sexual offence in an institutional setting. The offence will be punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment for an ‘accountable person’ who fails to protect a child from a sexual offence
  • ss. 229BC – Failure to report sexual offending against a child to police: will make it an offence for any adult not to report sexual offending against a child by another adult to police. This obligation extends outside of the workplace to our responsibility as members of the Queensland community to protect children. The offence will be punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment for any adult who fails to report child sexual abuse to police.

The offences recognise the difficulties victims have in disclosing or reporting abuse, the vulnerability of children, and the risk that perpetrators of child sexual abuse may have multiple victims and may continue to reoffend against particular victims over lengthy periods of time.

The Criminal Code amendment does not replace the mandatory reporting obligations of doctors and registered nurses under the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) (the CP Act).

This advice applies to all registered health practitioners; for further information please visit:

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Latest workforce data released

The Board released its latest quarterly data report in May. Data cover 1 January to 31 March 2021. It shows that at this date, there were 38,727 registered physiotherapists in Australia. Of these:

  • 36,911 had general registration,
  • 1,000 had non-practising registration, and
  • there were 816 physiotherapists with limited registration, including those doing postgraduate training or supervised practice.

The 2,051 physiotherapists on 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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Students and graduates

Graduate webinar recording now available

The Physiotherapy Board of Australia’s webinar for graduates was broadcast live on 27 May 2021. A recording of the webinar presentation is now available.

Board Chair Kim Gibson is joined by Board practitioner member David Cross from NSW and Board community member Kate Waterford from the ACT.

In this webinar, the panel discuss the responsibilities of being a registered physiotherapist, maintaining your registration standards each year, professionalism and the role of the Board.

You can also read a transcript of the webinar recording, the questions asked by participants and view the presentation slides. See our news item for all of these.

Consultations: We want to hear from you too

An important step in the Board’s review of its registration standards, codes and guidelines is consultation. The feedback the Board receives in consultations helps keep regulation clear, effective and proportionate. The Board regularly seeks feedback from the profession and the community on regulatory issues and policies and standards.

As students and new graduates, you are encouraged to provide feedback to the Board’s consultations. Your feedback will help to make policies and standards more relevant to practitioners and assist us in our role of protecting the public.

Keep an eye on the Current consultations page on our website.

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National Scheme news

Promotion of COVID-19 vaccinations: further information

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Ahpra have released a joint statement about the promotion of COVID-19 vaccinations and responsibilities practitioners and others have under the National Law when advertising a regulated health service.1

On 7 June 2021, the TGA issued updated guidance regarding the promotion of approved COVID-19 vaccines to clarify the way health practitioners and others can communicate to the public about COVID-19 vaccines.

This updated guidance gives health practitioners greater flexibility to openly discuss vaccination and allows offers of reward to be made to those fully vaccinated under the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Here are some key points that the statement helps to clarify:

  • All promotion of COVID-19 vaccines must comply with the TGA’s guidance, including where health practitioners and regulated health service providers offer rewards for COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Where promotion of COVID-19 vaccines involves advertising of regulated health services it must comply with both the TGA’s guidance and advertising requirements of the National Law, as explained in the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service.
  • The TGA’s guidance and the advertising requirements of the National Law do not apply to information about COVID-19 vaccines provided as part of a consultation or treatment.

When communicating about COVID-19 vaccines, be mindful of your professional obligations under the Board’s Code of conduct. All National Boards have issued a position statement to provide further guidance about how the Boards’ codes of conduct apply to COVID-19 vaccination.

The TGA, Ahpra and the Board support vaccination as a crucial part of the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many physiotherapists have a vital role in COVID-19 vaccination programs and in educating the public about the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

More information

1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

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Improvements made to notifier confidentiality safeguards

All improvements recommended in the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman’s (NHPO) Review of confidentiality safeguards for people making notifications about health practitioners have now been implemented or are underway.

The review found that Ahpra’s management of confidential and anonymous notifications offered reasonable safeguards for notifiers and was consistent with the practices of other regulators globally.

The NHPO recommendations to strengthen Ahpra’s policies, guidance, communications and systems to further mitigate risk of harm to notifiers have now been implemented. These include:

  • updating relevant policies to reflect that possible confidentiality safeguards for the notifier will be considered when assessing each new notification
  • publishing an updated privacy policy and collection statement to clarify how personal information will be used and disclosed, and
  • providing new guidance to staff about how to safeguard confidentiality, including in relation to redacting a notifier’s information and sharing a notifier’s information with the relevant practitioner.

As part of this work, we also recognised the importance of procedural fairness for practitioners. Following consultation with professional associations and professional indemnity providers, we have published a new guide for staff to help them manage complaints which may have insufficient detail to allow practitioners to respond meaningfully.

We have also published a vexatious notifications framework and introduced new training for staff in how to identify and manage vexatious complaints.

For more information, read the news item

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Check out our latest podcasts

Ahpra hosts conversations and interviews with people in our community. We discuss current issues, address myths and common questions, and think about what we can do to best protect the public and support the safe provision of healthcare in Australia.

The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare.

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 9285 3010 (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 19/07/2021