Psychologists Nationalised in Australia: Registration Creates Greater Uniformity & Other Benefits

By Healy, Imelda | The Journal of Employee Assistance, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Psychologists Nationalised in Australia: Registration Creates Greater Uniformity & Other Benefits


Healy, Imelda, The Journal of Employee Assistance


"... The new national registration has had a positive impact on efficiency and management in the delivery of services."

Psychologists in Australia can now practice with greater ease in any of this nation's states and territories. In addition there is an increased confidence in standards and practices, along with more open information and greater transparency, both for the general public and others utilising psychological services.

These changes are the direct result of the July 2010 registration of psychologists in Australia--a nationalisation, which, in turn, created the National Psychology Board. It is interesting to examine what led this complex process to be undertaken, the history and rationale behind this movement, and the impact for psychologists especially for those in the EAP sector.

History of Registration

Until last year each individual state and territory held the responsibility of registering all health practitioners, including psychologists. Registration requirements varied across jurisdictions. In fact there were more than 80 different health practitioner registration boards in operation throughout Australia. For psychologists there were eight registration boards, one for each state/territory:

* New South Wales (NSW);

* Victoria (Vic);

* Australia Capital Territory (ACT);

* Western Australia (WA);

* Queensland (Qld);

* South Australia (SA);

* Northern Territory (NT); and

* Tasmania (Tas).

Instead there is now one governing registration body, the Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

These changes date back to 2005 when the Commonwealth Government requested a study to examine issues affecting the health care workforce--and to make recommendations to ensure the continued delivery of quality health care over the next 10 years.

As a result of this study and subsequent suggestions, it was proposed that national registration and accreditation of health practitioners would provide improved safeguards for the public, deliver improved administrative efficiency and consistency by moving from a fragmented jurisdictional system to a single national system, and promote a more flexible, responsive and sustainable health workforce.

In 2006 an agreement was reached to establish a national

registration system for health care professionals, beginning with the nine professional groups registered in all Australian jurisdictions:

1) Psychology;

2) Medicine;

3) Nursing and midwifery;

4) Pharmacy;

5) Physiotherapy;

6) Osteopathy;

7) Chiropractic care;

8) Optometry; and

9) Dental care.

In essence a single consolidated national registration and accreditation system--incorporating a new, national profession-specific board for each of the nine professions was developed. In 2008 the details of the model and structure of the new plan were finalized. (See the accompanying graphic on page 19.)

Moreover this plan had its roots in previous governing boards and legislation. The forerunner of the National Psychology Board was the Council of Psychologists Registration Boards (CPRB), which had been in operation in one form or another since 1985. In fact regulation of psychology in Australia dates as far back as 1965 with the Victorian Psychological Practices Act. The last jurisdiction to enact psychology legislation was the Australia Capital Territory (ACT) in 1995.

Objectives

The objectives of the recent nationalisation registration, as set out in the Inter-Governmental Agreement, are as follows:

* To provide for the protection of the public by ensuring that only practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified to practice in a competent and ethical manner are registered;

* To facilitate workforce mobility across Australia and reduce red tape for practitioners;

* To facilitate the provision of high quality education and training and rigorous and responsive assessment of overseas-trained practitioners;

* To have regard to the public interest in promoting access to health services; and

* To have regard to the need to enable the continuous development of a flexible, responsive and sustainable Australian health workforce and enable innovation in education and service delivery. …

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