New powers allow health regulator to ban unregistered practitioners

The public will also have more information about practitioners on the public register, including if they use an alternative name to practise, in new changes to enable the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards to better protect the public.

The new raft of amendments complete a series of reforms to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law agreed by all health ministers aimed at strengthening public protection and improving the operation of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.

Key changes in effect on 1 July 2024 include:

  • allowing National Boards and Ahpra to issue interim prohibition orders about unregistered persons in certain circumstances where the person poses a serious risk to others
  • establishing the process to renew a practitioner’s registration after a period of suspension has ended
  • extending powers for National Boards to exclude information about a practitioner from the public register if including it would pose a serious risk to their health or safety, to also include risks to the practitioner’s family members or associates. This includes risks such as those stemming from family, domestic or other violence.

Powers to issue interim prohibition orders about unregistered practitioners were an important safeguard for the wider health system, said Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher.

“These powers will only be used in exceptional circumstances, when it is deemed there is a very real risk to the health and safety of individual patients or the wider community.”

Some state and territory health complaints bodies already had this power, he said.

Practitioner verification

Safety will also be strengthened by making it easier to verify a practitioner’s registration, with both their legal name and alternative name (if being used in practice) to now appear on the register. Some practitioners prefer to practise under a traditional name or an anglicised or shortened name.  

Other changes in the same package of amendments to the National Law started in October 2022 and May 2023. The new updates completed the most significant reforms to the National Law since it came into effect in 2010, Mr Fletcher said.

“Australia’s health system, as well as the reasons and ways people access it, has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. These reforms allow the regulation scheme to evolve, strengthening Ahpra and National Boards’ ability to protect the public and support practitioners.”

More information can be found at the Ahpra website.

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