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February 2019

Issue 12

Message from the Chair

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2019.

The Occupational Therapy Board of Australia (the Board) is pleased to welcome our new community member from Victoria, Ms Jennifer Morris. She will strengthen the community and consumer perspective in the regulatory work of the Board. Jennifer brings strong skills and breadth of experience around regulation which will support us in developing and reviewing standards, codes, guidelines and publications.

The new Australian occupational therapy competency standards (the competency standards) are now in effect. We are continuing our work to support the implementation of the competency standards to help occupational therapists, employers, education providers and the public understand how the competency standards apply in practice.

Together with 36 other health bodies, the Board has signed the National Scheme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Statement of Intent. We are committed to achieving equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031.

Julie Brayshaw
Chair, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia

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Board news

New competency standards for occupational therapists are now in effect

The Australian occupational therapy competency standards (the competency standards) have been in effect since 1 January 2019. The Board expects all occupational therapists to understand and apply them in their practice.

The competency standards outline professional behaviours all occupational therapists should demonstrate to practise safely and ethically. They apply to all occupational therapists working across all practice settings, including research, education, management and other roles not involving direct contact with clients.

The competency standards focus on four conceptual areas of occupational therapy practice:

  • Standard 1 − Professionalism 
  • Standard 2 − Knowledge and learning 
  • Standard 3 − Occupational therapy process and practice 
  • Standard 4 − Communication.

The competency standards specifically acknowledge the need for occupational therapists to enhance their cultural responsiveness and capabilities with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The new standards also include reference to the integration of evidence, reflective practice, digital literacy and the use of appropriate assistive technology.

Each of the four competency standards is further described by a number of practice behaviours. These practice behaviours indicate to occupational therapists and the public the expected behaviours for each competency standard. Clients of occupational therapists can consult these competency standards and practice behaviours to understand what is expected of occupational therapists.

The competency standards have been designed for regulatory use and are a benchmark for the standard of practice deemed suitable by the occupational therapy profession. They also provide a resource for employers and managers of services about what to expect of a competent occupational therapy workforce and the safety of their clients. Education providers can also use the competency standards to inform the design of programs of study to produce safe and competent new graduates.

We have published a range of tools on our website including an e-brochure, a poster and videos to support occupational therapists in becoming familiar with and applying the competency standards. We published the first video with Board Chair Julie Brayshaw when the competency standards were first published in 2018. We have now published an animated video introducing the competency standards to support their effective implementation.

The Board is continuing its work on the development of supporting tools to help occupational therapists, students, employers, members of the public and others understand and apply the competency standards.

To view the videos and standards, and for more information, visit our webpage: Australian occupational therapy competency standards.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy

The Board signed the National Scheme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Statement of Intent, together with 36 health organisations, including the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), the other National Boards, accreditation authorities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector leaders.

The Statement of Intent highlights our intent and shared vision and values to achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031.

The Board is also supporting AHPRA’s first Reconciliation Action Plan which outlines what AHPRA will do to start addressing the imbalance in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians.

Board Chair Julie Brayshaw has been nominated Co-Chair of the National Scheme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy Group.

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Latest registration statistics released

The Board has released the quarterly registration data for the period 1 October to 31 December 2018. Registrant numbers have increased from 21,154 as of the September report, to 22,033 as of 31 December 2018. Of these, 21,301 have general registration, 651 have non-practising registration and there are 77 practitioners with limited registration. Four people have provisional registration.

For more information, visit the Board’s Statistics page.

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National Scheme news

Occupational Therapy Board supports more public information on the national register

Changes to the national online register of practitioners will make it easier to access public information about health practitioners across Australia.

The online register has accurate, up-to-date information about the registration status of all registered health practitioners in Australia including occupational therapists. As decisions are made about a practitioner’s registration renewal or disciplinary proceedings, the register is updated to inform the public about the status of individual practitioners and any restrictions placed upon their practice.

Along with other National Boards, the Board has decided to introduce links to public tribunal decisions when serious allegations have been proven, in the interests of transparency and on the recommendation of the Independent review of the use of chaperones to protect patients in Australia.

No information about the notifications received by the National Boards and AHPRA will be published. The change is simply helping to make already publicly available information easier to find.

Further information is available in the media release on our website.

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Proposed changes to practitioners’ names published on the national register

Governments recently consulted on possible changes to the to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law), one of which would allow AHPRA and the National Boards to publish the names that registered health practitioners use in practice and not just their legal name. The national online register of practitioners is a vital part of Australia’s system of regulating health practitioners to support patient safety.

The public and employers can look up the names of all health practitioners who are registered to practise, as well as information about any limits or restrictions placed on the way an individual practitioner is allowed to practise.

The national online register must remain an authoritative and trusted source of information about health practitioners. Consumers rely on it for accurate, up-to-date information to inform their healthcare decision-making and employers rely on it to validate their employees’ registration status.

Some health practitioners practise their profession using a name that is different from their legally recognised name published on the register (an alias). AHPRA has asked governments to consider changes to the National Law, that would enable registered health practitioners to nominate one or more aliases to be recorded on the public register.

AHPRA believes that recording additional names (or aliases) on the register will help to inform and protect the public by making it easier to identify a practitioner who may be registered and able to practise but who is not using their legal name.

AHPRA and the National Boards will keep practitioners and the public informed of any changes to the law and reporting requirements. For more information, read the media release on AHPRA’s website.

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AHPRA and National Boards welcome release of the Accreditation Systems Review final report

AHPRA and the National Boards have welcomed the publication of the Independent Accreditation Systems Review final report.

The Independent Accreditation Systems Review’s (the Review) final report makes significant, far-reaching recommendations to reform the accreditation system for regulated health professions in Australia. It proposes recommendations which range from relatively uncontentious and which the National Scheme bodies generally support, to those which are significantly more complex and contentious.

Health Ministers commissioned the Review following a review of the National Scheme as a whole.

For more information read the statement on the AHPRA website.

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New results format for OET English language test; registration standards remain unchanged

AHPRA and the Occupational Therapy Board have started accepting an updated format of test results for the Occupational English Test (OET).

All National Boards have a registration standard for English language skills, which require applicants for initial registration to demonstrate English language skills to be suitable for registration. The OET is one of the English language skills tests accepted by the Board.

The English language level being tested by OET remains the same. Test takers are not being measured differently, with the only change being the way the OET scores are described. As such, the National Boards’ English language skills registration standards referring to OET have not changed. Rather, updates have been made to internal systems and relevant application forms to accommodate and reflect the new numerical scale. You can read more in the news item on the AHPRA website.

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Selectively editing reviews or testimonials may break the law

AHPRA has issued more guidance for advertisers to make it clearer that selectively editing reviews is not acceptable. Under the National Law, testimonials about clinical care are not permitted, but reviews about non-clinical aspects of care are allowed.

In a recent case, an advertiser removed all negative comments from patients’ reviews. This selective editing changed the meaning of the reviews and had the potential to mislead the public. AHPRA’s new guidance makes it clear this is not acceptable and outlines the rules about editing or moderating reviews. It is misleading to:

  • edit a review that is negative to make it positive, as this falsely presents the feedback
  • edit a review that has a mix of negative and positive comments so that the published review only has positive comments, as this falsely implies that the reviewer only had positive feedback, or
  • edit a review so that it no longer accurately reflects all the reviewer’s feedback and presents an inaccurate or false impression of the reviewer’s views.

Reviews influence consumers’ healthcare choices so advertisers must make sure reviews are genuine and not misleading. The way advertisers moderate and publish reviews must comply with the National Law and the Australian Consumer Law.

The updated testimonial tool is available in the Advertising resources page on the AHPRA website, along with more information.

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AHPRA conducting pilot audit of advertising compliance in early 2019

AHPRA has started a pilot audit to check health practitioner compliance with advertising requirements. The pilot audit is modelled on the well-established approach to auditing compliance with core registration standards. The National Boards for chiropractic and dental are taking part in the pilot audit.

When applying to renew their registration last year, chiropractors and dental practitioners were required to complete a declaration about their advertising compliance. Section 107(4)(e) of the National Law enables a National Board to require any other reasonable information to be included with a renewal application. The audit is being carried out by AHPRA’s Advertising Compliance Team and will involve a random sample of chiropractors and dental practitioners who renewed their registration in 2018.

Regulatory Operations Executive Director Kym Ayscough said the audit for advertising compliance would provide opportunities to extend the current action under the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy launched in April 2017.

‘One of the audit’s main objectives is to analyse the rate of advertising compliance for those practitioners who advertise and who have not been the subject of an advertising complaint in the past 12 months,’ Ms Ayscough said.

Other objectives of the audit are to: 

  • inform the evaluation of the compliance and enforcement strategy
  • establish the rate of advertising compliance within the professions, and
  • address any non-compliance with advertising obligations identified during the audit.

An audit report addressing these objectives and including data analysis and recommendations will be prepared for National Boards so they can consider the results and implications for future compliance work across the professions.

This pilot audit will potentially improve compliance with advertising obligations across the entire registrant population, not just those who have had an advertising complaint. It will also provide opportunities to become more proactive in preventing non-compliant advertising by registered health practitioners.

For information about your advertising obligations see AHPRA’s Advertising resources page.

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Page reviewed 26/11/2020