Occupational Therapy Board of Australia - December 2022
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December 2022

Issue 21 - December 2022

    Chair's message

    Welcome to the new look newsletter, we hope you enjoy the new format!

    Registration renewal closes soon. This is a good time to check that you’re meeting your obligations under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. Read below for information about professional indemnity insurance.

    Thank you to all occupational therapists for your dedication to the profession and the public in what continue to be challenging times. We hope that you are taking care of yourselves and your colleagues.

    Best wishes for the festive season.

    Julie Brayshaw 

    Chair, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia

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    Priority news

    Online registration renewal is open until 31 December

    Occupational therapists have until 31 December 2022 to renew their general or non-practising registration. You will have received an email from Ahpra providing access to online renewal.

    We are now in the late renewal period and late fees apply.

    Read more in the news item.

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    Board news

    Professional indemnity insurance – make sure you're covered!

    With registration renewal closing at the end of this month, a reminder to check your insurance cover.

    You must have appropriate PII to practise. Please check that your policy is current and paid because lapses can easily occur.

    Some recent cases where a practitioner’s PII has lapsed include the following scenarios:

    • Reminders haven’t been received, have ended up in junk mail or been sent to an old email address.
    • Credit cards with a direct debit set up to pay PII have been cancelled, stolen, hacked or details have been changed, resulting in a cancelled policy.
    • A third party which is responsible for paying PII invoices has paid late, or not at all, resulting in a period without cover.
    • Change of providers has left a gap in cover.
    • Not enough money in a bank account to pay a PII direct debit, resulting in a cancelled policy.
    • New graduate or new employee not checking with employer that they are covered by PII.

    Important points for occupational therapists about PII

    It is a registration requirement that you are covered by PII – this can either be your own arrangement or via a third party, such as an employer. See the Professional indemnity insurance arrangements registration standard.

    • Practising without any or adequate indemnity insurance is taken seriously by the Board and will be investigated, because it is a statutory requirement to hold PII.
    • Failure to have insurance is never seen as an administrative oversight – it is a professional responsibility to ensure you have PII.
    • You must notify the Board within seven days if you no longer have appropriate PII.
    • Practising without indemnity insurance calls into question an occupational therapist’s commitment to client safety.
    • It is important that clients can recover any compensation they might be entitled to in the event of a successful claim.

    PII can potentially have consequences for the wider public interest, which include the reputation of the profession and upholding standards of conduct and behaviour.

    Many occupational therapists are in private practice and are individually responsible for their own PII. Do not base your annual declarations about PII on a guess – always check.

    Tips to prevent PII shock

    • Set reminders in your calendar about renewing PII.
    • Check your junk mail around PII renewal time.
    • Actively and manually look up your PII records to check currency when declaring at registration renewal.
    • Don’t delegate paying PII or renewing/declaring at registration to an administrative assistant, accountant, receptionist, or colleague.
    • Don’t assume without checking that someone else has your PII covered.
    • Check annually if your employer holds insurance for you.
    • Check your bank account regularly for direct debit PII payments.
    • Get retroactive cover for previous events if you change providers, so you leave no gap in cover.
    • Store your PII policy in a folder with other records such as CPD, as you should visit and update this folder regularly.

    What to do immediately if you find that you do not hold PII

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    Revised Code of conduct now in effect

    The revised Code of conduct for occupational therapists came into effect on 29 June. The code gives important guidance to practitioners about the Board’s expectations and the standard of conduct the public can expect from the profession. Revising the code included extensive consultation, which helped to create a more useful, accessible and contemporary document for both practitioners and the public.

    We’ve included the National Scheme’s definition of cultural safety in the revised code as well as guidance on how you can ensure culturally safe and respectful practice. This inclusion highlights the important role you have in achieving equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap.

    Resources to help you understand the Code of conduct

    To support you in understanding and applying the code, National Boards have developed supporting resources. These include a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and case studies which look at how the code could be applied in practice scenarios. National Boards have also developed a Code of conduct principles document, a one-page summary of the code, and encourage you to print a copy and place it somewhere visible. You can find these resources on the Resources to help health practitioners web page.

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    Notifications webinar recording available

    A recording of the Board’s June webinar Lessons from notifications is now available, sharing notification trends around communications, consent and record keeping.

    Board Chair Julie Brayshaw was joined by Board community member Roxane Marcelle-Shaw and Board practitioner member Rebecca Singh for a discussion about best practice in these areas, supported by recent case studies and followed by a question and answer session. The webinar was held on 20 June and attended by more than 600 practitioners.

    You can also access a transcript of the event and the PowerPoint presentation, and a summary of practitioners’ questions and our answers.

    Demographic analysis – occupational therapists 2015-2020 

     The Board is pleased to share the latest demographic analysis of occupational therapists, which is an in-depth look at our workforce across the five years from 2015-2020.  

    The number of occupational therapists in Australia grew by 31.1 per cent over that time, with most growth occurring in metropolitan and inner regional geographic regions. At 30 June 2020, there were 23,997 occupational therapists registered in Australia, of which 97.1 per cent held some form of practising registration. 

    The report includes statistics about the spread of practitioners across the country, employment projections, workforce shortages and demand drivers, and policy developments and considerations. 

    The increasing prevalence of chronic disease, the ageing population and increasing service awareness suggest that the ability to attract students and retain professionals – particularly in outer regions and remote areas – will be a major challenge for our profession in the foreseeable future. 

    Read the full report on the Board’s website.

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    Students and graduates

    Graduates – apply for registration now!

    Graduates set to complete their course this year can take the first step in their new health career by applying for registration now.

    Applying before you finish study means we can start assessing your application while we wait for your graduate results.

    Registration with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia is required before you can start working as an occupational therapist – and means you can work anywhere in Australia.

    Graduate webinar recording available

    A recording of the Board’s webinar Are you graduating soon? is now available, outlining the role of the Board and Ahpra, as well as practitioner obligations and the registration process, including when and how to apply.

    Board Chair Julie Brayshaw was joined by Ahpra staff members to explain the process for recent graduates to transition from students to registered occupational therapists. The webinar was held on 28 September.

    You can also access a transcript of the event and the PowerPoint presentation, and a summary of practitioners’ questions and our answers.

    Watch our video to get your application right

    See our video, Applying for graduate registration.

    You’ll find helpful advice, tips for avoiding common causes of delay and downloadable information flyers on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website.

    For more information, read the news item.

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    Registration news

    Latest workforce data released

    The Board’s latest quarterly registration data to 30 September 2022 is published on its website. At this date, there were 27,760 registered occupational therapists (including 30 on the pandemic sub-register).

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

    Extension of temporary acceptance of additional English language tests for registration applicants

    National Boards are accepting the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition test for applications received until 21 February 2023.

    COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns have disrupted many English language tests and made it difficult for some applicants to use the English language test pathway to meet National Boards’ English language skills registration standards. In response, earlier this year the National Boards established a temporary policy accepting the following additional language tests for a limited time:

    • the OET computer-based test and the OET@home test for applications received until 21 February 2023, and
    • the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition for applications received until 1 June 2022.

    National Boards have now updated this temporary policy which means that, along with the OET computer based and OET@home tests, the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition will also be accepted for applications received until 21 February 2023.

    All other requirements set out in the National Board’s English language skills registration standard still apply. There are no changes to any other requirements in the standards, including minimum test scores.

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    Consultation – have your say

    Using data to protect the public: Ahpra’s Data strategy

    Ahpra holds, publishes and shares data about all registered health practitioners in Australia, including through the public register of health practitioners.

    Public consultation on a draft Data strategy is now open. Ahpra is inviting feedback from health practitioners on the future uses of the data we collect and hold, including about three focus areas:

    • the public register of health practitioners
    • data sharing, and
    • advanced analytics.

    We want to know what you think about including additional information about you and your practice on the public register. We’re also seeking your views on publishing practitioners’ disciplinary history on the public register.

    We’re interested in sharing some of the data we hold (where legally allowed and while protecting privacy and confidentiality) to help protect the public, improve access to health services and contribute to patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. We want to hear from you about how we can share, or receive, data to benefit health practitioners and the public.

    In addition, we’re consulting on using new data technologies ethically and safely to help make our regulatory work more efficient and effective and streamline practitioners’ interactions with us.

    The consultation is open until 31 January 2023. We encourage you to have your say on how we use and share the data we hold about you, where lawful, to protect the public.

    To learn more or to make a submission, read the consultation paper and information for practitioners on the Ahpra website.

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    What's new?

    Smoothing the registration pathway for overseas-trained practitioners

    We are acutely aware of the pressures on the health workforce and the need to get internationally qualified applicants registered and into the workforce as quickly and safely as possible. This includes occupational therapists as one of the ‘key professions’ named in the recently announced Commonwealth government review: Independent review of the regulatory settings relating to health practitioner registration and qualification recognition for overseas trained health professionals and international students who have studied in Australia.

    Our registration requirements for practitioners who have qualified overseas, or in Australia, are robust and help assure the public that their practitioner is safe to practise in Australia.

    We have published new resources offering a clearer path for international health practitioners looking to work in Australia.

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    Landmark public protection reform bill passes into law

    The widest-ranging reform to health practitioner regulation since the National Scheme was established in 2010, has now passed into law.

    While some of the changes have already come into place, the majority have a delayed start, allowing Ahpra and the National Boards time to implement the reforms.

    Some of the significant changes that have already started include a new paramount principle that puts public safety at the centre of regulatory decision-making and a new guiding principle and objective that embeds cultural safety into the National Law.

    Next year will see new powers to strengthen public protection while maintaining fairness for practitioners come into effect. These reforms include:

    • a new power to issue interim prohibition orders against unregistered practitioners, which means Ahpra and National Boards can stop significant harm occurring while the most serious matters are investigated, and
    • the power to issue public statements to warn the public about serious risks posed by people, including registered practitioners, who are the subject of investigations or disciplinary proceedings.

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    Cosmetic surgery complaints hotline and two online hubs launched

    Ahpra is committed to making cosmetic surgery safer. Patients who have been harmed by cosmetic surgery can now report their concerns to a hotline. Practitioners who are aware of unsafe cosmetic surgery practices are also encouraged to call.

    • Our Cosmetic Surgery Hotline – 1300 361 041 – is a new service for cosmetic surgery patients and concerned practitioners to tell us about their bad experiences. If we know about it, we can investigate it. Concerns can also be lodged confidentially.
    • We have also set up an online Cosmetic surgery hub that gathers helpful resources for practitioners and the public in one place.

    We’ve also set up a Resources hub on the Ahpra website to support professional practice and help patients make safer health choices.

    The hub includes information on requirements for advertising, social media, supervised practice and more. Information for practitioners and the public is clustered according to useful topics, to make it easier to find.

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    National Scheme news

    Click on the image below to read the National Scheme newsletter. The next issue will be published this month and you can subscribe on the newsletter web page.

    National Scheme news banner graphic


    Keep in touch with the Board

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    Page reviewed 16/06/2023