Physiotherapy Board of Australia - May 2024
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May 2024

Issue 33 - May 2024

From the Chair

Kim Gibson, Physiotherapy Board Chair

Welcome to the first Physiotherapy Board newsletter of 2024.

We are now well into the year, and the Board has been busily progressing its strategic projects. These include developing a proposal for non-medical prescribing in physiotherapy, which will be widely consulted on as a critical part of the process.

The Board is also interested in the workforce issues, particularly in the areas of rural and remote practice. We recently visited Rockhampton where we met with practitioners from both private and public sectors. These practitioners generously shared their experiences of practising in rural and remote communities, including both the challenges and the positive outcomes they have achieved.

In sustaining our workforce, the Board is interested in understanding why physiotherapists choose to leave or stay in the profession. The Physiotherapy Attrition and Retention Collaboration project is nearing completion and we anticipate publishing results soon.

Keep reading for some important and interesting updates on the recent work of the National Boards and Ahpra.

Kim Gibson
Chair, Physiotherapy Board of Australia

Priority news

Updated physiotherapy practice thresholds released

In November last year, the Physiotherapy Board of Australia released its updated Physiotherapy practice thresholds in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. The updated document has been jointly developed with the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand and it describes in detail the level of competence required for initial and continuing registration as a physiotherapist in both countries.

The thresholds were last published in 2015 and the updated version includes new references to cultural safety, digital competence and interprofessional collaboration.

Both the Australian and New Zealand Boards recognise the benefits of professional mobility made possible by the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement and the threshold document is designed to maintain consistent physiotherapy standards and practice across both countries.

We encourage all physiotherapists to read the document, especially those who are new practitioners. You can find the thresholds in the Accreditation section of the Board’s website.

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Consultation on embedding good practice in clinical placements and simulation-based learning

Ahpra’s Accreditation Committee is seeking feedback on its draft guidance on embedding good practice in clinical placements, simulation-based learning and virtual care in initial education for student health practitioners. The guidance will support improvements in these important components of every health practitioner’s initial education.

The committee wants to ensure that our student health practitioners have access to high quality clinical placements, simulation-based learning and virtual care educational experiences. These activities enable students to develop the capabilities they need for contemporary practice, and to provide patient-centred care safely and competently.

The aim of the guidance is to help National Scheme entities, in particular National Boards and accreditation authorities, improve student education in these areas.

Find out more about this consultation and provide feedback on the committee’s Current consultations page. The public consultation runs till close of business (AEST) Friday, 21 June 2024.

Students and graduates

Beware of identity theft – don’t post your registration certificate online

Successfully registering with Ahpra is the last green light for new graduates starting their career in their chosen profession. It’s an exciting step and one to feel immensely proud of. The temptation might be strong to celebrate by sharing your first registration certificate with the world – but think twice before posting.

Identity theft is rife. Every day, websites pop up selling fake Ahpra certificates of registration based on real ones that graduating practitioners have posted on their social media. Never post your identity documents online. You’ve worked hard to earn your registration; don’t let somebody steal it.

Regulation at work

Latest court and tribunal cases

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

WA physiotherapist suspended for two months for practising while unregistered

A Western Australian physiotherapist who failed to renew his registration and kept practising has been suspended for two months. As he was unregistered, he also failed to meet the requirements for public indemnity insurance (PII) and therefore practised without valid PII during this period.

Read more in the news item.

Physiotherapist suspended after intimate relationship with former patient

A West Australian physiotherapist has had her registration suspended for four months after engaging in an intimate relationship with a former patient soon after the treating relationship ended. The tribunal found that this boundary breach constituted professional misconduct.

Read more in the news item.

Registration news

Latest workforce data released

The Board has published its latest quarterly report on the physiotherapy workforce, covering the period to 31 December 2023. At this date, there were 44,3533 registered physiotherapists, of whom 41,477 have general registration.

There are 1,885 physiotherapists with non-practising registration.

Of the physiotherapy workforce, 305 practitioners identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (0.7%).

For more data, including registration by principal place of practice, age and gender, read the report on our Statistics page.

What’s new?

New checklist launched to help practitioners manage complaints

A new Checklist for practitioners has been developed to help resolve feedback or complaints made directly to practitioners or the health service where you are working.

We know that receiving negative feedback or a complaint can be confronting and stressful so, as well as this resource, we have published a list of general support services.

You might find this checklist helpful when a complaint is first raised with you by a patient or client, and it may also be relevant to those who have a role in establishing and maintaining complaints systems and processes at a health service.

When feedback or complaints are managed well, they can result in improvements that increase patient, client, and community confidence in you as a practitioner. It can also help prevent a concern escalating to an external complaint body or regulator.

The checklist was developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Ahpra and the 15 National Boards as part of a joint project with the Commission, with work also underway on resources to help consumers navigate the various complaints options available.

The checklist, along with other resources covering a range of topics to support your practice, is available on Ahpra’s Resources page.

Partnership with Weenthunga Health Network guiding critical reform work to eliminate racism in healthcare

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have the right to access and work in healthcare that is culturally safe and free from racism. Ahpra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Unit is supporting the Cultural Safety Accreditation and Continuing Professional Development Working Group and Weenthunga Health Network, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consultancy, to co-design and develop nationally consistent standards, codes and guidelines on cultural safety for registered practitioners.

The Cultural Safety Accreditation and Continuing Professional Development Framework and Strategy is a multi-year project, grounded by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being, knowing and doing. By embedding cultural safety in accreditation and continuing professional development requirements for all 16 regulated health professions in the National Scheme, we will ensure consistency and accountability to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and health workers.

Cultural safety is patient safety. Racist and culturally unsafe practice and behaviour towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples will not be tolerated, as seen in the landmark ruling of a doctor banned for discriminatory and offensive behaviour.

Regulators come together as one million Australians turn to medicinal cannabis treatments

Maintaining a balance between access to medicinal cannabis and its safety is a priority for health regulators across Australia amid a growing number of prescriptions and the emergence of telehealth, online prescribing and direct-to-consumer health services. Australia’s medicine regulation system is complex, with different agencies responsible for overseeing the medicines themselves, the health professionals who prescribe and provide them, and the premises where they are stored and dispensed.

In February, Ahpra and several of the National Boards convened a forum in Melbourne that brought together health regulators to share information and regulatory intelligence, discuss any current risks to the public, and determine how all regulators can best work together.

The use of unregistered medicinal cannabis products has spiralled in recent years, from around 18,000 Australians in 2019 to more than one million in January 2024. The number of prescribers accessing the Authorised Prescriber and the Special Access Scheme has also risen sharply to more than 5,700 medical and nurse practitioners prescribing and dispensing medicinal cannabis products that have not been evaluated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for safety, quality, or efficacy.

The forum attendees agreed to continue discussions with the aim to monitor issues and identify any gaps in the regulatory and wider health response to this rapidly growing industry. In particular:

  • improving data and information sharing among Australia’s regulatory agencies
  • gaining a better understanding of the drivers of the recent rapid rise in access to these products
  • enhancing communication to prescribers, including clinical guidance, on the safe and effective use of medical cannabis products
  • examining ways of better educating consumers about medicinal cannabis medications, and
  • encouraging more research to drive the production of clinical guidelines for medicinal cannabis.

Read more in the communiqué on Ahpra’s website.

Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Statement of Intent

The Ahpra Accreditation Committee has published its Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Statement of Intent. The statement of intent aims to embed interprofessional collaborative practice across the continuum of healthcare settings.

The statement is a fundamental step towards achieving effective team-based and coordinated care across Australia. It is a commitment to improving the outcomes for patients and consumers by reducing the risk of fragmented and uncoordinated care.

Interprofessional collaborative practice is healthcare practice where multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work together and with patients, families, carers and communities to deliver the highest quality of care that is free of racism and other forms of discrimination.

The statement represents a joint commitment from 53 stakeholders across the health and education sectors to take action.

Read more in the news item.

Myths and misconceptions about notifications – getting the help you need

Too often, practitioners struggle in silence when they are dealing with a health, mental health or drug and alcohol issue – or even just the day-to-day challenges of being a health practitioner.

The best thing you can do – for yourself, for your family, and for your patients – is to seek help early and to actively engage in recommended treatments. This might be from your own GP, another health practitioner or from one of the many independent practitioner support services available.

There is a common misconception that if you seek help, your treating practitioner will automatically be required to report it to Ahpra and your registration may be affected.

The threshold for when treating practitioners need to make a mandatory notification about health is very high and only necessary when the public is at substantial risk of harm. The need for a mandatory notification to be made is not often met.

If you are managing your health and getting the help you need, you can usually continue to practise. The Board wants you to be healthy and safe to practise, and encourages you to seek help early when you need support.

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.


Page reviewed 13/05/2024