Hello, welcome to the autumn edition and our first newsletter for 2021.
I want to provide an update on the membership of the National Board. In March we saw three members’ terms expire and another three members appointed. Coming back onto the Board after three years away is Travis Pearson, a nuclear medicine technologist from Queensland. Travis served one term on the Board up until 2017. I’d also like to welcome Renea Hart, a community member from Queensland, and Tony Buxton, a diagnostic radiographer from NSW.
We also bid farewell to some experienced and supportive Board members. I’d like to thank Tracy Vitucci (diagnostic radiographer, NSW), Donisha Duff (community member, Qld) and Chris Hicks (diagnostic radiographer, Qld) for their contributions to the work of the Board and the National Scheme. Both Chris and Tracy were inaugural Board members, have been a safe pair of hands throughout the transition to national registration and worked tirelessly to strengthen relationships with the profession and the community. Their wise counsel will be missed.
In this issue, in addition to the public consultation on exam guidelines, we also look at the importance of professional indemnity insurance and what can happen if you don’t have it.
Chair, Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia
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The legislation that covers all registered practitioners, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, says that register health practitioners must not practise unless they have appropriate professional indemnity insurance (PII) arrangements in place.
The purpose of PII cover is to ensure that patients have an avenue of redress for injuries or economic losses that arise from damage caused by health practitioners in the course of practice. Patients are at serious risk of harm (e.g. serious injuries that prevent earning an income) when a health practitioner does not have appropriate PII arrangements in place.
Registered practitioners from other health professions have been referred to tribunals for failing to have PII arrangements in place. In one example a pharmacist failed to hold PII for a period for four months while continuing to practise. The tribunal hearing the matter found that while the practitioner described the error as an oversight, they accepted that they ‘failed to maintain adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance cover’ while practising. The tribunal reprimanded the pharmacist and imposed conditions requiring the practitioner provide the Board and Ahpra with copies of insurance certificates for a period of five years.
When you renew your registration, you are asked to make a declaration that you have been practising with appropriate PII. Making a false declaration and deliberately misleading the Board is a serious matter. Courts and tribunals have characterised false declarations that affect decisions about professional registration as conduct that is substantially below that which is reasonably expected of a health practitioner. A finding of professional misconduct makes a registered practitioner liable to suspension or cancellation of registration.
In another example, a dentist failed to maintain PII for over four years but continued to practise. The dentist also declared at renewal of registration that held PII throughout the same period. The tribunal hearing the matter characterised the wilful behaviour as professional misconduct, issued a reprimand and suspended the practitioner for four months.
It is important that you are aware of your obligations when it comes to PII. If it’s been a while, now is a good time to read over the PII registration standard and the PII guidelines. The Code of conduct also identifies professional obligation that you have with respect to PII. And remember, the declarations you make at renewal form the basis of your audit, so respond to the declarations honestly and accurately.
The Board is currently consulting on revised National exam guidelines. The consultation paper is available on the Consultations page of the Board’s website and is open until 12 pm (midday) Friday 25 June 2021.
The profession’s national exam is based on the Professional capabilities for medical radiation practice (the professional capabilities) and assesses a candidate’s (someone who is attempting the exam) ability to apply knowledge, solve problems and critically analyse scenarios to give assurance that they can meet the minimum requirements for safe practice in the medical radiation profession.
The Board first published National exam guidelines in December 2015 and is reviewing them to ensure they are updated, contemporary and reflect developments in the profession. While the exam is working well, the guidelines need to be updated to align with the revised professional capabilities, which were launched last year.
Changes to the guidelines include:
aligning the guidelines to the structure of the professional capabilities
increasing the pass mark from an average of 75 per cent to a minimum of 75 per cent, in both Part A and Part B of the exam
limiting attempts to three, and
supporting the use of online proctored exams.
We are keen to hear from medical radiation practitioners. Hearing from individual practitioners, education providers, professional associations and other health professionals is crucial to developing guidelines that reflect contemporary requirements.
From time to time the Board is asked to help with research projects that are related to medical radiation practice and have a connection to the Board’s role in regulating the profession. We have agreed to provide information about a research project focusing on the radiation therapists’ perceptions of artificial intelligence (AI).
The research survey looks at how AI is being used in practice and the impacts on health service delivery. Principal investigator, Julie O’Shaughnessey, who is conducting a research project as part of a higher degree, said ‘The aim of the research is to survey Australian radiation therapists’ perceptions of how artificial intelligence may affect their role and the conditions necessary for successful implementation of such technology.'
Participation in the research project is voluntary and all the information will be collected via an anonymous survey link. The participant information sheet for this research study is included at the start of the online survey. The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete via the following link: www.surveymonkey.com/r/RT_Perceptions_of_AI.
The principal investigator is Julie O’Shaughnessey who can be contacted by email at Julie.email@example.com
The research supervisor is Dr Mark Collins who can be contacted at M.L.Collins@shu.au.uk
Ethical approval was granted by Sheffield Hallam University (UK) Research Ethics Committee Ref- SHU Ethics/MC/310321.
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.
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.
We are still on the lookout for practitioners who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander who can advise us in our regulatory efforts to support and promote cultural safety. If you are interested, please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
See more detail about what is happening in this space in the National Scheme news below.
From April 2020, more than 34,720 practitioners from eight health professions answered the call to be on the pandemic sub-register, including 1,100 diagnostic radiographers. Established as a temporary measure, the sub-register allowed the return to work of qualified and experienced health practitioners to provide a potential surge health workforce during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sub-register closed on 21 April for diagnostic radiographers. Ahpra and the Board extend their 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.
For more information, see the Board’s news item and the Ahpra FAQs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twelve of the 15 National Boards, including the Medical Radiation Practice Board, have a shared Code of conduct that sets out the standards of professional conduct the National Boards expect and which they use to evaluate practitioners’ conduct. Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and to apply this code.
The shared code is also an important document for the public as it can help them understand what behaviour they can expect from a registered health practitioner and assess whether their care met professional standards.
National Boards and Ahpra are reviewing the shared code to ensure it stays up-to-date, relevant and useful for practitioners and to make it more accessible to the public. We have published a consultation paper that includes an overview of the review, case studies, proposed changes to the code and optional questions that may help frame your feedback.
The consultation is open until 6 July 2021 and we’re keen to hear from practitioners, the community and health system stakeholders. See Ahpra’s Consultations page for the consultation paper and more information.
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!
In 2017 Ahpra commissioned independent research that took the first international look at vexatious (unfounded) 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.
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:
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.
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.
Ahpra will establish a new, independently chaired committee to consider key accreditation issues, in response to a new policy direction from the 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.
In a recent episode of Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series, 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.
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.
Visit our website for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs.
Visiting the website regularly is the best way to stay in touch with news and updates from the Board.
Lodge an enquiry form via the website by following the Enquiries link on every web page under Contact us.
For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
To update your contact details for important registration renewal emails and other Board updates, go to the Ahpra website: Update contact details.
Address mail correspondence to: Mark Marcenko, Chair, Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.
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