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Ahpra invites input on criminal history standard for registered health practitioners

Australia’s health practitioner regulator is calling for input as it begins to review the national standard that sets the bar for criminal history for registered health practitioners.

The criminal history registration standard sets out factors for decision-makers to consider when a practitioner or person applying for registration has a criminal history.

The public, practitioners and other stakeholders are being asked whether these are the right factors to consider. Feedback to this consultation is now open and closes on 14 September 2023.

The review is part of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (Ahpra) blueprint for reform to strengthen public safety in health regulation, which has a focus on sexual misconduct in healthcare.

All practitioners are required to undergo a criminal history check when they first apply for registration. They must also declare any change when they annually renew their registration.

In 2021/22, Ahpra and the National Boards received 75,543 domestic and international criminal history checks of practitioners and/or applicants, with only a few results serious enough to affect a practitioner’s registration. Of those, 15 applicants were granted registration with restrictions, while six had their application refused.

“Our priority has always been to protect the public and make healthcare safer. This review, as part of our greater reform of our approach to sexual boundary notifications, is an important opportunity to ensure healthcare is safe for patients and in-line with community expectations,” Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.

“We look forward to hearing from patients, the public, practitioners and anyone who wants to share their feedback on the standard, to inform future proposals for change.”

Ahpra is also consulting on explaining how the principles apply in action, for example, whether it would be helpful to group into categories according to seriousness.

For example:

  • Category A could include criminal offences that are incompatible with registration because they involve such serious disregard for the harm to others and such a significant breach of the trust and confidence placed in registered health practitioners such as murder and serious sexual assault.
  • Category B could include offences that may or may not be incompatible with registration, depending on factors such as whether the individual can demonstrate circumstances to prove there is no longer risk to the public. An example could be theft involving no violence or breach of trust.
  • Category C could include offences that are unlikely to be relevant to the practice of a health profession, such as minor drug offences, traffic offences, or public nuisance.

Ahpra said it is seeking feedback on the current version of the criminal history standard as well as comments on the future direction for other focus areas of its work to improve public safety in health regulation, including:

  • plans to better explain and publish more information about how decisions relating to criminal history and professional misconduct by registered health practitioners are made
  • whether information about decisions to re-register practitioners who were previously removed from practice because of serious professional misconduct can be published, and
  • more support for people who are affected by professional misconduct by registered health practitioners.

According to Ahpra, this consultation will help inform its approach and ensure it has heard a range of views before a revised criminal history standard is developed and another opportunity is provided for stakeholders to comment (phase two of the review).

More information about the review and how to make a submission during this first consultation phase is available on the Consultations page.

More reading

Ahpra bolsters investigations unit as sexual misconduct complaints rise

Ombudsman reviewing Ahpra’s ‘vexatious complaints’ framework

Disciplinary history could appear on public register in Ahpra shake up

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