The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) has removed the requirements of an in-person identity check for international health practitioner applications amid a red tape-cutting overhaul of the registration process.
The move, effective from 18 December, is in response to Ms Robyn Kruk’s independent review released earlier in 2023 that has identified opportunities to streamline health practitioner regulation and to ease skills shortages in critical health professions.
Ahpra CEO Mr Martin Fletcher said removing the requirements of an in-person identity check in Australia before granting registration would save overseas health practitioners and their employers time and money without changing the minimum standards that ensure public safety.
“We hope this change will reduce costs and administrative burden and encourage international health practitioners to come to work in Australia,” he said.
While the ‘Kruk review’ has outlined practical measures to ensure Australia is a competitive destination for overseas practitioners, RANZCO said this may ease workforce pressures, but would present challenges in changing processes while maintaining quality and safety.
The latest change means Ahpra and National Boards can register an overseas-based health practitioner before they come to Australia. There is no change to the requirement to obtain a domestic and international criminal history check before registration is granted.
Rural Doctors Network CEO Mr Richard Colbran welcomed the move, saying it would contribute to Australia’s ability to attract and recruit health workforce.
“Internationally trained medical and health staff are vital for our nation’s social fabric, and have been for decades, and we are grateful for their commitment and service,” Colbran said.
The 2022/23 Ahpra annual report shows of the 877,119 registered health practitioners in Australia at 30 June this year, 19,288 were new overseas registrants – a 92% increase on the previous financial year, with more than half of these nurses and midwives.
An overhaul of the registration process has already cut the average assessment time for international applications from 29 days down to just 10 days.
Fletcher thanked Kruk for the report and said international medical graduates play an important role in Australia’s health workforce in providing much needed care to patients in Australia.
“Ahpra and the National Boards will work with our partners across the health system to continue to remove unnecessary barriers for international health practitioners to work safely in Australia. In our complex health system, collaboration with all agencies is the key to achieving systemic change,” he said.
“In sharpening our focus on workforce flexibility and removing red tape from the registration process, we will continue to prioritise patient safety. Future reforms must always strike a careful balance between safety, fairness, and flexibility.”