Occupational Therapy Board of Australia - May 2022
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May 2022

Issue 20 - May 2022

    Chair's message

    Welcome to our first newsletter for 2022. We particularly welcome new graduates and occupational therapy students who might be receiving this newsletter for the first time. As always, we welcome feedback from you all about the content of the newsletter – if you would like more information about certain topics, let us know!

    In June we will be hosting a webinar for practitioners highlighting some lessons we have learnt from notifications (complaints) we have received. We hope that many of you will be able to attend and engage with us on the topics of consent, communication and record keeping. Read more below.

    The Board continues to meet with its key stakeholders and in 2022 has a busy schedule meeting with co-regulators in New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand.

    Julie Brayshaw 

    Chair, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia

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    Board news

    Supervised practice framework now in effect

    The Supervised practice framework (the framework), developed by the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia along with 12 other National Boards and Ahpra, came into effect on 1 February 2022. The framework applies to supervised practice that is used for regulatory purposes across the National Scheme.

    If you are required by the Board to do a period of supervised practice, you must do so in accordance with arrangements that have been approved by the Board. Supervision may be provided in workplaces for a variety of reasons including for guidance, support and monitoring performance. These arrangements are managed by employers directly and are not subject to the requirements of the framework.

    The framework outlines the Board’s expectations and supports supervisees, supervisors and employers to understand what is necessary to effectively carry out supervised practice. The framework also includes the principles that underpin supervised practice and the levels of supervised practice.

    To help you understand and apply the framework some FAQs have been developed, as well as two key steps diagrams which outline the main steps of supervised practice for registration requirements or suitability and eligibility requirements and of supervised practice following a complaint (notification).

    Details about the transition arrangements for new and current supervisees are published on the Ahpra website.

    Read more in the Board’s news item.

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    Webinar – Lessons from notifications

    We invite practitioners to a Lessons from notifications webinar next month.

    The 20 June event will cover issues relevant to all occupational therapists, specifically notification trends and lessons learned in relation to communications, consent, and record keeping.

    Board Chair Julie Brayshaw will be joined by Roxanne Marcelle-Shaw and Rebecca Singh for a discussion about what is good practice in these areas, supported by recent case studies.

    The webinar will be followed by a Q&A session. If you would like to ask a question, please email it to [email protected].

    The webinar will be held from 6pm – 7.30pm AEST via Zoom.

    Places are limited so please register here if you would like to attend. The webinar will be recorded and we will share it on our website later this year.

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    Managing health records

    Maintaining clear and accurate patient health records is essential for continuing good care of patients. When a notification is made, the relevant patient health records are often a crucial piece of information National Boards will seek from the practitioner.

    To manage risk, we encourage you to reflect on your processes for maintaining health records, ensuring that they are sufficient to support the care being provided. It is your responsibility to:

    • keep accurate, up-to-date, factual, objective and legible records that report relevant details of clinical history, clinical findings, investigations, information given to patients, medication and other management in a form that can be understood by other health practitioners
    • ensure that records are held securely and are not subject to unauthorised access. This includes protecting the privacy and integrity of electronic records
    • ensure that records show respect for patients and do not include demeaning or derogatory remarks
    • ensure that records are sufficient to facilitate continuity of care
    • make records at the time of events or as soon as possible afterwards
    • recognise the right of patients to access information contained in their health records and facilitate that access, and
    • promptly facilitate the transfer or management (including disposal) of health information in accordance with legislation on privacy and health records when requested by patients, or when closing or relocating a practice.

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    Informed consent – how to manage it well

    Informed consent is a person’s voluntary decision about healthcare that is made with knowledge and understanding of the benefits and risks involved. Informed consent is a critical part of the practitioner-client relationship. Managing informed consent well can prevent misunderstanding.

    What you might consider as adequate communication to gain informed consent can be different to the client’s expectations and understanding. You must remember that informed consent is personal and that different people may need more information and time to consider it than others. It is your responsibility to:

    • provide information to patients in a way they can understand before asking for their consent
    • give the patient enough time to ask questions and make informed decisions
    • act according to the patient’s capacity for decision-making and consent, including when caring for children and young people, based on their maturity and capacity to understand, and the nature of the proposed care. You should consider the need for the consent of a parent, carer, guardian or other substitute decision-maker
    • get informed consent from the patient or where the patient does not have the capacity, from their parent, carer, guardian or other substitute decision-maker before carrying out any examination or investigation, or providing treatment
    • get financial consent by discussing fees in a manner appropriate to the professional relationship and addressing the costs of all required services and get general agreement about the level of treatment to be provided, preferably before the service is provided
    • inform your patients of the benefits, as well as associated costs or risks, when referring them for further investigation or treatment, which they may wish to clarify before proceeding
    • document consent appropriately, including considering the need for written consent for procedures which are of higher risk or may result in serious injury or death.

    Remember that you must also have consent to provide patient personal information to third parties and other persons.

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    Code of conduct – advance copy available now

    An advance copy of the revised Code of conduct is available now and we encourage you to read and be familiar with it before it comes into effect on 29 June 2022. The code sets out our expectations of professional behaviour and conduct for occupational therapists. You have a professional responsibility to apply this code in your practice, helping to keep the public safe.

    There will be specific supporting materials developed for occupational therapists and we will let you know when these are released.

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    Latest workforce data released

    The Board’s latest quarterly registration data has been released. The report covers 1 January to 31 March 2022. At this date, there were 27,411 registered practitioners (which includes 232 practitioners on the pandemic sub-register).

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

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    National Scheme news

    2021 pandemic response sub-register gets a boost

    More than 20,000 health practitioners are now on the 2021 pandemic response sub-register after practitioners on the 2020 sub-register opted in to extend their temporary registration.

    The 2020 sub-register was established in April 2020 to provide a surge health workforce to support the COVID-19 response. Inclusion was voluntary and practitioners could opt out at any time.

    The temporary registration of practitioners on the 2020 sub-register expired on 5 April 2022. In September 2021, Ahpra and the National Boards established a new sub-register (the 2021 sub-register), enabling recently retired practitioners from 12 regulated health professions to return to practice for up to 12 months.

    There are now 20,730 health practitioners with temporary registration to support the COVID-19 response. They are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, dental practitioners (all divisions), diagnostic radiographers, medical practitioners, midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists.

    All practitioners on the 2021 sub-register can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations). Their registration expires on 21 September 2022. However, if governments alert Ahpra and the National Boards to significant changes in need, the sub-register may stay open for longer.

    For more information, see pandemic response sub-register and FAQs for practitioners. There are also FAQs for employers.

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    Facilitating access to care in a COVID-19 environment

    Ahpra and the National Boards recognise that registered health practitioners have led the remarkable public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and commend them for their sustained efforts.

    National Boards expect all health practitioners to facilitate access to care regardless of someone’s vaccination status. People cannot be denied care if steps can be taken to keep the person, health practitioners and their staff safe.

    Good practice involves keeping health practitioners, staff and patients safe. Some practitioners may be considering how best to do this while also facilitating access to care in the current COVID-19 environment.

    Ahpra and the National Boards have developed guidance to help support good practice in this context. The guidance reinforces existing codes and guidelines and other publicly available information and does not introduce new or different requirements for practitioners.

    National Boards expect practitioners to first comply with public health orders in their state or territory. The principle of safely facilitating access to care should then guide decisions about treating people in a COVID-19 environment.

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    What’s the point of protected titles?

    Recently, there’s been some debate about protected titles and how they work to protect the public. Ahpra and the National Boards provide the following guidance to help inform the discussion.

    What is a protected title?

    In Australia, the titles of registered health professions are 'protected' by law. This is important because they can act as a sort of shorthand for patients and consumers. When someone uses a protected title (for example, ‘occupational therapist’), you can expect that person is appropriately trained and qualified in that profession, registered, and that they are expected to meet safe and professional standards of practice.

    The protected titles under the National Law can be accessed on the Ahpra FAQs page.

    Health Ministers have recently consulted on whether ‘surgeon’ should be a protected title under the National Law, and in what specialties it should apply, or if other changes should be made to help the public better understand the qualifications of medical practitioners. For more information on the consultation, visit the Engage Victoria website.

    Read the news item for more details on this topic.

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    Senate Committee tables its report

    The Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee has tabled its report on the inquiry into the Administration of registration and notifications by Ahpra and related entities under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

    Ahpra actively engaged with the inquiry, with representatives of Ahpra, the Agency Management Committee and Community Advisory Council all appearing. There were public submissions and stakeholder appearances.

    We will consider the recommendations directed to Ahpra and National Boards and contribute to the Australian Government response, as requested.

    The report is available on the Inquiry web page.

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    Latest podcasts tackle big subjects

    Ahpra releases fortnightly episodes of the Taking care podcast, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can access these on the Ahpra website or listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player. Recent episodes include:

    Health practitioners’ role in eliminating family violence – a survivor’s story

    The first episode of Taking care for 2022 is a powerful and honest conversation about family violence and the role of health practitioners in helping survivors.

    Tackling the blame culture to improve patient safety – is it possible?

    What is the best approach to support a practitioner’s professional practice to ensure patient safety? How do we regulate when honest errors occur in a workplace environment?

    What needs to change to make cosmetic surgery safer for patients?

    A consumer shares her good and bad surgery experiences, and consumer advocates Maddison Johnstone and Michael Fraser join CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland to share some of the red flags for consumers and contemplate what a safer system could look like.

    Alan Kirkland is on a panel for the independent review into cosmetic surgery commissioned by Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia. More information about the review is on the Ahpra website.

    Two voices from LGBTIQA+ communities

    In this episode, we hear stories of people in LGBTIQA+ communities and their experiences and challenges accessing healthcare. They offer their advice for others experiencing the same and about what practitioners can do to better support these communities.

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    Keep in touch with the Board

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    Page reviewed 30/05/2022