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May 2021

Issue 17 - May 2021

    Chair's message

    Welcome to the first newsletter for 2021!

    The year has started with a change in membership for the National Board. We said goodbye to several longstanding members – Mrs Terina Saunders, Mr Jim Carmichael, Mrs Rachael Kay and Dr Areti Metuamate. Terina and Jim have been members of the Board since its inception in 2011, Rachael joined in 2016 and Areti joined in 2018. On behalf of the Board I would like to thank them all for their dedication and commitment to the work of the National Scheme and all they have achieved. We wish them all the very best.

    We also had the pleasure of welcoming four new Board members – Ms Rebecca Singh, Ms Angela Thynne, Dr Claire Pearce and Mr Darryl Annett. We are looking forward to the Board’s work in 2021, including consultation on a range of revised codes and guidelines for occupational therapists and continued engagement with the profession, stakeholders and students.

    Julie Brayshaw 

    Chair, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia

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    Board news

    Call for applications for appointment to the National Board’s Registration and Notifications Committee

    The Occupational Therapy Board of Australia is seeking applications from experienced registered occupational therapists for appointment to its Registration and Notifications Committee (the committee) to assist the Board in its primary role of protecting the public.

    The functions of the committee include:

    • making decisions in relation to registration and notification matter
    • providing professional and practitioner input to Ahpra about occupational therapy registration and notification matters, and
    • making recommendations and providing advice to the Board.

    For more information on the Board, please see the Board's website.

    The National Scheme has a commitment to increasing Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ leadership and voices. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are strongly encouraged to apply, as are people from rural or regional areas in Australia.

    Applications will be assessed by a selection advisory panel and the appointment will be made by the Board.

    The appointment may be up to three years with eligibility for reappointment and is expected to start in the latter half of 2021.

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    Call for applications for appointment as clinical advisor (occupational therapy)

    Ahpra and the Board are seeking expressions of interest from experienced, registered occupational therapists to provide contracting services. In this role you will:

    • provide accurate and timely clinical input into the assessment and management of notifications (complaints), compliance and registration matters
    • assist in identifying performance-based issues
    • advise on the application and monitoring of regulatory action imposed on an occupational therapist’s registration, and
    • contribute to the delivery of a professional, proactive, accurate, efficient, confidential and customer focused service.

    For more information, please see Ahpra’s Clinical advisor opportunities page.

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    Registered practitioners and students: What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccination

    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.

    Key points

    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 contraindicate
    • 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.

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    Meet your Board: our new members

    Rebecca Singh, practitioner member from South Australia

    Image of Rebecca Singh

    What attracted you to the role?

    I have been involved with regulation of the profession in project and advisor roles, initially with the South Australia Board and then with the National Board. I enjoy shaping the implementation of regulation to be practical and clear for practitioners, while balancing these demands to support public safety.

    I’ve always tried to contribute by taking on voluntary roles on committees, attending interest groups and promoting the valuable contribution the profession makes to people with disability, illness or injury.

    Tell us a little about your previous work.

    I co-run an OT-led private practice in Adelaide called Praktis Allied Health. I helped set up the Lifetime Support Scheme in South Australia as the Director of Services, and recently set up a peri end-of-life service for people who are ageing with complex chronic conditions living in the community and at risk of hospital admission.

    I’ve also worked in brain injury rehabilitation, workers compensation, driver assessment and rehabilitation and medicolegal practice.

    I’ve seen the challenges in public sector healthcare, private practice and the not-for-profit sector. My favourite work to date blends working with clients and seeing them thrive while developing systems and services to continually improve the way services are delivered.

    What do you think is unique about the work of an OT?

    The OT role is unique in its wholistic perspective, focus on empowerment and engagement in life.

    The wholistic perspective makes the profession very diverse as we are considering all components of a person, their environment and occupation and how these interact. What good is improving range of movement or concentration if it doesn’t correlate to improved ability to participate in daily life? By empowering and supporting clients to engage in valued roles we can help people find joy in their lives – what a great job!

    What are you hoping to do in your new role?

    I would like to help support professional regulation: recently there have been seismic shifts in practice as a result of the NDIS, the aged care royal commission and the COVID-19 pandemic. This is creating huge change for practitioners and in the way the public utilises OT services. I think my broad experience in multiple sectors can assist the Board in supporting the profession, being responsive to these industry changes and the impact on public safety.

    Claire Pearce, practitioner member from the Australian Capital Territory

    Image of Claire Pearce OTBA

    What attracted you to the role?

    I will confess that for many years, the work of the Occupational Therapy Board and its interface with Ahpra was all a bit of a mystery to me, beyond knowing that I had to register each year! When the opportunity to take an active role on the Board came up, I figured the only way I would get to really understand the breadth and depth of the Board’s work was to play an active role. So here I am!

    Tell us a little about your previous work.

    After graduating from the University of Sydney in 1993, I worked in adult acute and rehabilitation services in Australia and the UK, specialising in acquired brain injury. In 2001, I received a Master of Science (Health Sciences) from the University of London, before heading back to Australia in 2005. Moving from management of clinical teams to project management roles provided a good balance while my children were very young.

    In 2015, I was awarded an Australian Prevention Partnership Centre scholarship to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. I was awarded a PhD in 2019 for my thesis ‘The obesity paradigm and the role of health services in obesity prevention: a systems view’.

    I’m employed by Canberra Health Services as the Director of Allied Health for the Division of Mental Health, Justice Health, Alcohol & Drug Services as well as the Profession Lead for Occupational Therapy. I also provide sessional tutoring for the Masters and Bachelors Occupational Therapy courses at the University of Canberra. Any spare time is dedicated to running my three school-aged boys around to their various sporting and music commitments!

    What do you think is unique about the work of an OT?

    We all have a very individual response to our health, both in how we cope with injury or illness and how proactive we are about prevention. That means that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare, which is where occupational therapy comes in! By taking a strengths-based and individual approach to how we work with people and by focusing on function, we can support people to live the best life they possibly can.

    What are you hoping to do in your new role?

    I can’t help but bring a systems approach to any role that I am in, whether that is considering the needs of an individual or redesigning a model of care. Understanding the regulatory environment will enable me to bring yet another dimension to my systems thinking so that I can play a part in helping occupational therapy evolve to meet the needs of the communities that we serve.

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    Registration renewal wrap-up: CPD, ROP and impairment declarations

    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.

    CPD and ROP requirements during COVID-19

    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.

    Return to normal for CPD

    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 occupational therapists 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.

    Impairment – when to declare

    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.

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    Regulation at work

    Man convicted of holding out individuals as health practitioners at aged care facilities

    A man who allowed unregistered individuals to provide occupational therapy and physiotherapy services to aged care residents in Victoria pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court of Victoria following charges brought by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

    Michael Dempsey was convicted of four charges of holding out one person as a physiotherapist and another person as an occupational therapist when neither were registered, in breach of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law). He was fined a total of $10,000. Read more in the news item.

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    National Scheme news

    Reminder to check your advertising: auditing has started

    Responsible advertising about regulated health services helps to keep the public safe from false or misleading claims and supports the public to make informed choices about their healthcare.

    Make sure you check your advertising to ensure it complies with advertising requirements of the National Law.

    When applying to renew their registration in 2020, health practitioners were asked to declare that, if they advertise, their advertising meets the advertising requirements of the National Law. Ahpra is now auditing compliance.

    We recently began this proactive audit to supplement our complaints-driven approach. Non-compliant advertising will be addressed under the Advertising Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

    The updated Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service are available to help practitioners and other advertisers understand their obligations when advertising a regulated health service.

    A range of other resources are also available at the Advertising hub on the Ahpra website to help the public, practitioners and other advertisers understand the advertising requirements of the National Law. These include examples, frequently asked questions and additional information about acceptable evidence and testimonials.

    We know health practitioners want to do the right thing and advertise responsibly. We encourage you to use the resources and information available to help ensure your advertising complies with the National Law.

    Need more advice?

    If you need advice about whether your advertising complies with the National Law, you may wish to seek this from your professional association, an independent legal adviser or indemnity insurer.

    Ahpra and the National Boards cannot give advice or an opinion about advertising and cannot check or pre-approve advertising to see if it complies with the National Law and the advertising guidelines. This is because as statutory regulators our role is to enforce the law, not to provide legal advice to advertisers about how to advertise.

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    Consultation on revised regulatory principles: have your say

    The National Boards and Ahpra are seeking feedback on revised regulatory principles for the National Scheme.

    The regulatory principles encourage a responsive, risk-based approach to regulation across all professions within the National Scheme. They also acknowledge the importance of community confidence and working with the professions to achieve good outcomes.

    The draft revised regulatory principles reflect two recent policy directions issued by the COAG Health Council which provide a clear mandate to the National Boards and Ahpra to prioritise public protection in the work of the National Scheme.

    We want the public to have trust and confidence in regulated health practitioners and to know that their safety is at the heart of everything we do in the National Scheme. The revised principles reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective.

    The consultation is open until 18 May 2021. Feedback is invited from practitioners, stakeholders and the community.

    Find out more about how to make a submission on the Consultations page on the Ahpra website.

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    Ahpra rolls out cultural safety training for staff and boards

    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!

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    Ahpra’s new framework for dealing with vexatious notifications

    What is known about vexatious complaints?

    In 2017 Ahpra commissioned independent research that took the first international look at vexatious 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.

    Ahpra’s vexatious complaints framework

    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:

    • the principles and features, significant impacts and potential indicators of vexatious notification
    • how to identify vexatious notifications, an
    • what to do where there is a concern that a notification is vexatious.

    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.

    Need more help or information?

    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.

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    New accreditation committee to be established

    Ahpra will establish a new, independently chaired committee to consider key accreditation issues, in response to a new policy direction from the (formerly COAG) 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.

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    Podcast: Chief Health Officers Brett Sutton and Jeannette Young in the spotlight

    Talking to host Susan Biggar, 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.

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    Keep in touch with the Board

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    Page reviewed 5/05/2021