22 Apr 2020
The Dental Board of Australia (the Board) and Ahpra are adapting our regulatory requirements to respond to emergency health service needs and support health service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to protect the public.
This includes flexible approaches to support practitioners meeting regulatory requirements, such as the continuing professional development standard, and to help mitigate disruption to clinical placements, exams and training programs. We’ve also developed guidance on using teledentistry and meeting professional indemnity insurance requirements.
We are closely monitoring the situation and may make further changes and updates as needed.
Registered health practitioners are playing a vital role in treating and containing COVID-19. We know you are working hard in an unprecedented situation to keep people safe in a demanding and fast-changing environment.
Telehealth guidance has been developed outlining Ahpra and the National Boards’ expectations of how registered health practitioners will use telehealth in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Board is working with Accreditation Authorities, health services, education providers and others to explore options to minimise the disruption of changes and cancellations of clinical placements, exams and training programs on the future dental workforce. We will work to identify ways in which core learning outcomes and capabilities can still be achieved to maintain the sustainability of the future dental workforce.
We have developed national principles for clinical education during COVID-19 with Accreditation Authorities, the Commonwealth Departments of Health and Education, and Ahpra to try and help education providers and stakeholders during this challenging period. Read more in the news item.
The Australian Dental Council has issued guidance on accreditation issues, including clinical placements.
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting on dental practitioners’ continuing professional development (CPD) in various ways, including where CPD events or leave are cancelled. The Board encourages practitioners to continue CPD relevant to their practice where possible. However, we do not want CPD requirements to take practitioners away from clinical care or cause additional concerns to practitioners already under extra pressure due to COVID-19. Accordingly, if a practitioner can't meet the CPD standard because of the COVID-19 emergency, then we won't take any action for the registration period during which the COVID-19 emergency response is in force.
This also applies to the Board’s Endorsement for conscious sedation registration standard, and the requirement to attend a Board-approved and competency-based course each 12-month registration period to maintain endorsement.
However, if the COVID-19 emergency resolves more quickly than expected, we may issue updated guidance about what CPD the Board would expect to be completed within the current registration period.
If you are considering changes to your professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover, you should check the Board’s PII arrangements registration standard for run-off cover requirements. Practitioners are reminded that they must not practise without appropriate PII arrangements in place. Once government-imposed restrictions are lifted and practitioners return to normal practice, they must ensure their PII meets Board requirements.
Ceasing direct patient care – am I still practising?
Dental practitioners must not practise without appropriate PII arrangements in place.
Practising is more than direct patient care. Practice is any role, whether remunerated or not, in which the individual uses their skills and knowledge as a health practitioner in their regulated health profession.
For the purposes of the Boards’ registration standard, practice is not restricted to the provision of direct clinical care. It also includes using professional knowledge in a direct non-clinical relationship with clients, working in management, administration, education, research, advisory, regulatory or policy development roles, and any other roles that impact on safe, effective delivery of services in the profession.
The Board has published a PII arrangements registration standard with the specific requirements for PII. Most privately practising and self-employed registered dental practitioners are responsible for arranging their own PII cover. Practitioners who are not self-employed need to be aware of which PII arrangements cover them and ensure that this meets the Board’s registration standard. The Board does not specify a minimum level of cover. Instead, practitioners are advised to ensure they take out adequate and appropriate insurance or PII cover for their circumstances.
Practitioners whose practice has been restricted or who have made a personal choice not to practise should direct enquiries about possible PII premium refunds to their provide?
What PII cover does a dental practitioner need if they are still practising?
A practitioner who is still practising will need to maintain PII cover that meets the Board’s PII arrangements registration standard. However, if their practice has changed significantly (e.g. they are seeing fewer patients or have changed to a non-clinical role), they should contact their PII provider to discuss their changed circumstances, and possibly amend their level of cover. Providers are best placed to advise practitioners on what level of cover is adequate and appropriate for their practice and circumstances.
Practitioners who later return to normal practice must remember to review their cover again to ensure they continue to meet the PII registration standard.
Does a practitioner still need PII cover if they are not practising?
A practitioner who is not practising will need to maintain, at a minimum, PII run-off cover.
A practitioner who is not practising for part of the registration period for whatever reason (e.g. their place(s) of practice is closed), does not need to have full PII cover for that period. However, they must ensure they have appropriate run-off cover for matters that would otherwise be uncovered arising from their previous practice as a registered health practitioner.
When returning to practice, practitioners must remember to review their cover again to ensure they continue to meet the PII registration standard.
We must care for our patients and clients, ourselves and each other. In providing care, the Board does not expect you to place yourself in harm’s way. Ensuring effective use of personal protective equipment and following relevant infection control requirements and public health advice is crucial to this.
If you know or suspect you are infected, you should follow current public health advice, including self-isolating. If you have pre-existing health conditions that increase your risk of infection, you should take action to manage this, such as discussing it with your colleagues, employer or place of work.
We also urge you to take care of your own health during this pandemic. It is vital that dental practitioners look after themselves and each other. Information about general support services is available on the Ahpra website.
The Board and Ahpra will provide regular updates on our websites and via email as the situation develops and we respond. In the interim, some useful resources to help you manage COVID-19 include:
Dr Murray Thomas
Chair, Dental Board of Australia