The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (the Bill) was introduced into the Queensland Parliament on 13 June 2017 by the Minister for Health, the Honourable Cameron Dick MP.
Parliament has referred the Bill to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee (the Committee).
The Amendment Bill
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law) commenced operation on 1 July 2010 and initially regulated 10 health professions.
Over 2014 and 2015, an independent review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (National Scheme) was undertaken with extensive national public consultation including receipt of 230 written submissions. The final report of the review made a range of recommendations for amendments to the National Law.
The recommendations are to be implemented in two stages, the first of which is discussed below. A second stage of amendments will be progressed in a separate bill later in 2017 following comprehensive consultation processes.
What are the key changes proposed?
The draft Bill looks to include the following key reforms:
- National regulation of paramedics, including establishment of a Paramedicine Board of Australia.
- Strengthening complaints (notifications) management and enforcement powers of National Boards to ensure fairness for complainants (notifiers) and practitioners.
- Recognition of nursing and midwifery as two separate professions, with the professions continuing to be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
- Various technical amendments to improve efficiency of the National Law.
The Bill proposes that paramedicine become a health profession regulated by the National Law to provide the community with confidence that services received are bound by national standards. The profession will now be subject to the same regulatory arrangements as other health professions, including registration processes, accreditation of training programs and national standards (such as requirements for professional indemnity insurance).
The profession, which includes around 14,000 paramedics throughout Australia, will be regulated by the establishment of a Paramedicine Board of Australia, who will take action regarding unprofessional conduct or professional misconduct. In Queensland, disciplinary and enforcement matters under current arrangements will apply, such that the Health Ombudsman will deal with more serious complaints.
The National Law contains disciplinary and enforcement powers to address practitioner health, performance and conduct issues. The Bill proposes to strengthen those powers by:
- Allowing a National Board the power to require a health care practitioner to provide details of all of their practice arrangements. AHPRA will be empowered to develop guidelines about such information to assist health practitioners.
- Broadening the powers of when a National Board may decide to take no further action (section 151). Currently, a National Board can choose to take no further action if the notification is being dealt with adequately by another entity. The Bill removes the word ‘adequately’ – noting that it is not the role of the National Board to review the performance of another entity.
The amendment also adds a further ground upon which a National Board may decide to take no further action – if the health practitioner to whom a notification relates has taken appropriate steps to remedy the issue the subject of the notification, and the National Board reasonably believes no further action is required in relation to the notification.
Nursing and Midwifery
The Bill proposes that the National Law be amended to recognise nursing and midwifery as separate professions. The independent review found that the majority of Australian midwives hold dual nursing and midwifery registrations (approximately 30,000). However, recently there has been an increase in people registered as midwives only (approximately 3,000) thanks to direct entry training programs and the widespread introduction of alternative maternity choices for women.
Under the proposed reform, both professions will continue to be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
When will the amendments take effect?
The amendment Bill is currently before the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee. It will be interesting to review the Committee’s recommendations when they prepare their report, as well as review the second Bill which will cover further proposed amendments to the National Law.