More health professions added to COVID-19 sub-register

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Additional health professions will be added to the pandemic sub-register to prepare for any surge in workforce demand resulting from COVID-19.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and National Boards announced that 5,000 physiotherapists, psychologists and diagnostic radiographers who left the register of practitioners or moved to non-practising registration in the past three years will be added to the sub-register from April 20.

The sub-register enables AHPRA to fast track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners.

AHPRA Chief Executive Officer Martin Fletcher said that the National Scheme is working closely with government and health services to prepare for increased demand.

“Being added to the sub-register is the first step in returning to practice. If practitioners have capacity to return to practice they are also encouraged to go to their state and territory health department website where they can express interest in joining their COVID-19 workforce,’ AHPRA Chief Executive Officer, Martin Fletcher, said.

Mr Fletcher said that the National Scheme is working closely with government and health services to prepare for increased demand.

“Employers, including health departments, will also play an important role by carrying out employment and probity checks and providing any induction and training that may be needed,” he added.

These additional practitioners will join the 30,000 doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists who remain on the sub-register from the first phase which was launched on April 6.

The pandemic response sub-register was established following a request from Australia’s Health Ministers to enable more qualified and experienced health practitioners to quickly return to practice. They do not need to fill in forms or pay fees, nor meet the usual return-to-practice requirements.

There is no obligation for anyone added to the sub-register to practise or remain on it. They can opt out at any time, for any reason.

“We have strongly encouraged those who are not comfortable or able to return to practice to opt-out and that is reflected in the over 10,000 who have chosen not to participate,’ Mr Fletcher said.

Practitioners who choose to stay on the pandemic sub-register and go back to work will need to comply with their profession’s code of conduct, professional indemnity insurance requirements and work within their scope of practice. After 12 months (or sooner if the pandemic subsides), they will be removed from the sub-register. If they wish to continue practising after the emergency, they will be able to apply for ongoing registration through the standard process.