Hike in complaints about AHPRA

Hand Pushing Blue Complaints Modern Laptop Keyboard Key. 3D Illustration.

Complaints about the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and health practitioner boards were up by 32% in the last financial year, new data shows.

The office of the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner (NHPOPC) released its annual report this week.

The NHPOPC oversees AHPRA and the 15 health practitioner boards, including the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

The NHPOPC was contacted by the public and health practitioners 1,035 times in 2018-19 – up 30% from 2017-18, which included 586 complaints – up 32% on the previous year.

While 600 complaints about AHPRA and the national boards were finalised (up 45%), there were 128 new investigations (up 47%) in 2018-19.

The Ombudsman and Commissioner Richelle McCausland said the reason for the large increase in number of concerns was complex.

“Each year the number of health practitioners registered across Australia increases; more notifications are also being made annually to AHPRA; and more people are finding out about my office and how we can help.”

The report showed complaints fell into four main categories: the handling of a notification about a registered health practitioner (52%); the health practitioner registration process (40%); the handling of a request for documents under freedom of information legislation (3%); and a breach of privacy (3%).

Common concerns about AHPRA and the national boards related to:

  • delays in a decision being made;
  • lack of communication and/or inadequate explanation of a decision that was made;
  • concerns that all relevant information was not considered before a decision was made;
  • and unfair policies and procedures.

The NHPOPC received 145 complaints relevant to nursing and midwifery in 2018-2019. The majority (70%) of those complaints were about registration concerns (101). The most common complaint issue was delay in the processing of registration applications (67). Complaints were also received about unfair registration processes or policies (33) and registration fees (1).

“We received more complaints about registration delays from nurses and midwives than from practitioners in any other professions.

“My office has been working with AHPRA to address recent concerns about delays in the processing and assessment of applications for registration. I will continue to closely monitor this complaint trend,” Ms McCausland said.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said concerns had been raised by members.

“We’ve received feedback from our Branches around the country about significant delays in the registration process, which suggests that the problem is much greater than the figures quoted by AHPRA,” she said.

“The Federal ANMF is meeting with AHPRA and the NMBA in an effort to resolve these issues for our members so that we can be sure that new graduates are able to start their jobs they’ve worked so hard to gain. A number of newly graduated nurses have reported losing employment opportunities because of unexplained delays in the registration process. So, it’s critical that new graduates seeking registration have their applications processed in a timely fashion.”

Continued growth in the number of registered health practitioners was one of the reasons for the expected rise in complaints, according to an AHPRA spokesperson.

“We registered 41,696 more health practitioners than the previous year, an increase of 5.9%.

“There has also been a spike in the number of notifications made to AHPRA about registered health practitioners and more matters being dealt with more quickly; and increased awareness of the role of the NHPOPC and the ability to make complaints about AHPRA and the national boards.”

AHPRA was working to address issues highlighted in the report, including supporting staff to improve communication with practitioners; making services more accessible to people; and improving the timeliness of its processes, the spokesperson said.

Nurses and midwives with any concerns about how AHPRA and the NMBA have handled a notification or the registration process should contact the NHPOPC, Ms McCausland said.

“Every complaint my office receives is important. Each complaint is an opportunity not only to resolve someone’s concerns, but also to identify systemic issues which may be affecting others.”

14 Responses

  1. Many heath professionals lost their jobs’ offers because of the massive delay in the registration process! I lost five months of my 12 months contract because my registration process took 7 months and one o my colleagues took him one year to get registered and lost the offer!
    I think a complaint needs to be submitted to the federal minister of employment or sign a petition to be sent to the minister.

      1. Well, I applied to re-register in April of last year after the government made a plea for ex-nurses to reenter the profession. Took them 7 months to process my application. Then I had to do the whole 450 hours of free work, ahem, supervised practice. It’s now July of the following year and I’m still waiting for my registration to be processed. Disgraceful! Even government supported agencies in developing countries operate faster than this! Thank God the pandemic wasn’t a major problem here, that’s all I can say…

  2. I am applying for my nurse registration from 9/ july 2020 and now still havent got it. after every 3 weeks they asked me to submit another document and then i am still waiting. I called them many times, and they said I have submitted all required documents and my registration will be issue maybe tomorrow, I rang them again in next week, next 2 weeks, I got all the same answers. my CO told me I will have it in 3 weeks and 3 weeks later she asked me ti submit another document. it’s been 11 weeks and I am waiting every day for my registration, attended some interviews and they asked about my registration. I am so stressful right now. AHPRA, I am feeling like they wanna avoid issuing my registration number.

      1. today is 27/10/2020, they asked me to provide Job description from nursing home where i am working as a ACE 3, I submitted on 23/9/2020 and the the Case officer told me last friday 23/10/2020 her manager is reviewing it before thay send to the Board to make decision (manager is reviewing my Job Description after I submited it in more than a month).
        I got a job offer from a nother nursing home with RN role, I let them know but seem they dont care and told me I have to wait at least more than 5 weeks before they make the decision. can anyone let me know where I can make a complaint about this?
        Thank you

          1. Thank you very much for your information, I still havent got my registration even the Board had meeting and I had to sign a paper with strict conditions which I believe they want to restrict to my registration when I am working as an RN before Christmas. Too much promising from the Case officer (CO) from Adelaide makes me feel so stressful. I lost my contract to work as an RN when I was supposed to work on October 2020.
            whenever I talked to the CO about my registration, the only promising from her is waiting for her manager to review my papers, waiting the Board for the meeting, after meeting has been done, now another reason is because of the Xmas and New year so I have to wait for couple weeks. How nice

  3. Hi to everyone,

    I would like to share with you my experience with AHPRA.
    My name is Ioana, I am a Internationally Qualified Nurse.
    I have graduated 20 years ago, registered for the first time in Romania in 2003. Since then I have worked permanently as a full time nurse…with some time of duty when I had taken maternity leave twice and also a couple of months when I moved to UK and had my registration with the NMC that took around 5 months.
    I only worked in two hospitals so far, both very busy hospitals, the first one is the ARGES County Hospital for 11 years and the second one Queens Hospital from London Uk for 4 years. All this time I worked on a couple of different wards, I will not get into detail…but I consider myself to be a good, hardworking nurse and some people will understand what level of nursing you need to have to handle the pressure working within the NHS in a busy Hospital in London. Please excuse me for my lack of modesty.

    I decided I want to immigrate to Australia more than a year and a half ago. I started preparing for the English language exam and organise some finances first, some documents and translations for some documents.
    On the 2nd of May 2020 I started my application with AHPRA.
    A few times they requested for some more documents and I provided them always within the timeframe given by them.
    On the 21 of October they requested the last set of documents, only 3 more pages, to be sent by 28, no problem…all done as requested.
    On the 1st of December 2020 I logged into my account only to be amassed and see that my portfolio had been deactivated.
    I phoned them up, spoked with someone in the call centre, I explained the situation and asked to speak with the case officer, I’ve been put on hold and after some time I’ve been told that she didn’t answer.
    I complained about the situation, about the lack of communication etc.
    I received an email sometime the next days, saying that the last documents haven’t been received, total lie, you know that when you send an email, if is not sent you receive an failure email sent back.
    I have the prove of sending it and also if you don’t receive something I see it fair to let the applicant know that the portfolio will be deactivated before you do it, but is not the case….
    We did send the documents back on 4th of December again and a reply came back from AHPRA on the 8th of Dec. that they’ve received them this time.
    I got an apology for the lack of communication at some point from a senior member of staff and I did reply back, saying a few things, also mentioning how much more pleasant and straightforward also how well was dealt my application for registration with the NMC in UK compared to this one…as we had a few more issues with AHPRA, I didn’t tell you, when we started sending documents at first. I know…I was only honest.

    Today after 4 months, I received the decision that I qualified for Stream C.

    Now, for give me again, I have some big respect for the nurses finishing now and getting registered, but there won’t be one nurse in this world, or let me say better, no school in Australia or anywhere else that can teach anyone to be at my level of nursing.

    I did cry for the first time in a very long time today. This is the “fair” treatment I deserve after over 15 years of being a nurse…. This is how AHPRA are assessing our applications…no justice!!!

    I hope that people that should take a notice of this will do so. I will complain to the NHPO …for the start…

    I am a nurse…I have done nothing wrong!!!

    I deserve more than this…

  4. I would like to add something to my previous comment if I may…I would like to apologise for any of my English mistakes…I did pass the OET test last year, I know that I need some improvement, English is not my first language, but also the level of frustration with this application was very high…and the results was very unfair.

    I think the case officers at AHPRA have a low level of knowledge in regards to health staff, they have no idea on what experienced health staff means or the fact that some of us studied 20 years ago, but we get recent medical information and updates through short term courses and as we are active staff we get to use all the technology and resources faster than anyone else when they become available.

    There won’t be anything, in my opinion, that you can find in a Hospital in Australia and you can not find it UK Hospitals, that’s what I think …

    This is all that I had to say for now…

    Thank you for letting me share this with you!

    1. Hey Ioana, I’m really sorry that this has been your experience. I totally agree with you that your treatment has been appalling. Just so you know, Australian locals are treated with just as much disdain and disrespect. If you are lucky, it ‘only’ takes two weeks for the case manager to get back to you and give some vague reply (they never address your concern directly). Calling is even worse! Every time I’m told that I’m the 76th or 83rd person in the queue and after being put on hold for over an hour I get put through to someone who isn’t even qualified to look into my case and says they’ll pass my message on. I’m sure it’s never relayed to the people concerned, because I never receive any response. The staff also don’t appear to know their own policies and/or other information pertaining to the running of the agency. I couldn’t find anyone willing to insure me while doing my re-registration (because I wasn’t a student but wasn’t registered either). I asked AHPRA if they had a list of approved insurance providers and AHPRA claimed that they don’t get involved in the insurance side of things and that they couldn’t offer any advice. After ringing more than twenty companies I found one who was, you guessed it, AHPRA approved! When I informed the staff of this they had no idea, and didn’t seem particularly interested either. Thanks for wasting my time AHPRA. In addition, they forgot to review my case several times, and they only appear to have one meeting a month for doing this. And then, when they finally remembered, the person reviewing my case had some concerns about how long it had been since I last practised (I’d like to add that almost another year had passed by this stage, thanks to them taking so long) so it would be reviewed again the following month. Wtf? Nothing is going to change by the following month except that another month will have passed! I wrote back and said it’s only another month for you, but for me it’s yet another month I can’t work! Please get your act together! They are probably annoyed now, and hence I’m still waiting (this time for my new registration, after having completed the supervised practice. I had to wait a month for them to process the tick box that said “deemed competent” and then I had to start the application afresh, providing all the same documentation all over again). Dealing with AHPRA is a sanity challenge, that’s for sure. If I’d known beforehand, I never would have wasted thousands of dollars reapplying, but now that I’ve come this far…

  5. I am not surprised, disappointed, however, since there is reportedly a nursing shortage. It took me 9 months from the initial lodging of my application with AHPRA. I am from the US, and have been a Registered Nurse more than a decade. The delays in communications and decisions, asking for documents be recertified by a JP with a different stamp, asking proof my education was taught in English (again, America!), etc, etc…was very disheartening, and excessive red tape with a giant knot. It was a confusing, inefficient process, with lack of guidance from people one could actually speak with. Hoop after hoop after hoop, with weeks or months between requests for more documentation, is ridiculous.
    I considered not being a nurse anymore, because I really needed to work. Their sloppy issues caused enormous amounts of stress for me and my family. I felt like they didn’t want me to work here.
    Complete shame to treat incoming, well qualified practitioners like this. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it is for non-native English speaking countries.

    1. Hi Kelly, yes it’s disgraceful. I was born in Australia, did my training here and it’s coming up to a year and a half since I first applied to re-register (long story, but I took a short break after ten years of 50-60 hours a week, due to being guilted into doing overtime due to massive staff shortages, and then after taking a much needed break I couldn’t get a job due to the “Budget Emergency”. After giving up — there were500-600 applicants per position with more ‘recent’ experience — I lost my registration because apparently nurses have very short term memories and can’t remember their jobs after two years). And they wonder why they can’t get enough nurses… It’s disgraceful and totally unacceptable! I’m sorry this is the introduction you got to Australia and I hope your other experiences have been better.

  6. I am going through this process with APHRA at the moment, it is a joke!
    I have been registered in Australia since 1986 and through a mistake with my calculations I did not have enough hours abs stared as much to them which started this unbelievably difficult process. I am currently employed by the state government as a nurse vaccinator with Covid rollout. The lack of empathy and compassion with APHRA is unbelievable!
    I have almost thrown in the towel and retired. They do not call back at all, the so called case manager just sends threatening emails and will not engage on phone.
    I am so fed up with the whole process. I am definitely following this up with the ombudsman

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