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Annual report: Registered health practitioners grow with paramedics leading the charge

24 Nov 2021

A continued growth in the registered health workforce is highlighted in the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) 2020/21 Annual report. 

Key points
  • Ahpra and the National Boards have released their 2020/21 Annual report.
  • There were 825,720 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions, an increase of 24,061 on last year.
  • 1 in 16 people employed in Australia is a registered health practitioner.
  • Women make up the largest proportion of health practitioners (75%).
  • The participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across all registered health professions is well short of what is needed.

While it was another year dominated by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of regulation continued and adapted to the impacts of the pandemic. A particular focus was to ensure that students were able to graduate with sufficient clinical experience despite placement delays. National Boards also looked to greater flexibility in some regulatory requirements, while maintaining a clear focus on patient safety.

As at 30 June 2021, there were 825,720 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions, 24,061 more than last year. This includes 26,595 health practitioners on the 2020 pandemic sub-register which offers a surge workforce for the health system response to COVID-19. Overall, 75% of registered practitioners are women.

The largest growth in registrants was paramedics (up 8.3% on 2020).

‘Registered health practitioners have done exceptional work in very challenging times. It is very encouraging to see the continued growth in the number of health practitioners over the past year. Now more so than ever, we all appreciate the critical role that these health practitioners play in keeping us all safe,’ Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.

8,311 (1.1%) of all health practitioners identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This is well short of the 3.3% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in the general population.

‘Ahpra and the National Boards are working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations to increase the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across all registered health professions and to promote cultural safety and the elimination of racism in healthcare,’ said Mr Fletcher.

Top 10 facts from this year's report:

  1. Ahpra dealt with 84,607 new applications for registration, 41,548 applications were from new graduates, including nearly 23,300 nursing applications.
  2. Ahpra renewed the annual registration of 738,659 practitioners.
  3. 189,786 students were studying to be a registered health practitioner in over 860 accredited and approved programs of study delivered by more than 130 education providers. These programs of study provide graduates with the qualification they need for registration.
  4. 10,147 notifications about 7,858 practitioners were received by Ahpra; This was 0.9% fewer than in 2019/20 and 8.7% more than in 2018/19.
  5. The top three reasons for a notification were clinical care, medication issues and communication.
  6. The overall percentage (1.6-1.7%) of health practitioners with a notification stayed around the same in 2020/21.
  7. We received 568 notifications involving a possible failure to maintain appropriate professional boundaries which is an increase on previous years. These can range from comments made by a practitioner to a patient during a consultation to inappropriate sexual relationships. The serious nature is reflected in the outcomes with regulatory action taken more often about boundary notifications.
  8. 121 matters about professional misconduct were determined by independent tribunals: 96.7% resulted in disciplinary action.
  9. Ahpra completed 16 successful proceedings in the courts. All resulted in findings of guilt against the defendant on one or more charges, with penalties imposed ranging from a good behaviour bond to fines of up to $30,000.
  10. 3,516 practitioners were monitored by Ahpra to ensure health, performance and/or conduct requirements were being met during the year.

To view and download the 2021/21 annual report, visit the Annual report webpage.

Contact us

  • Media enquiries phone (03) 8708 9200.
  • For registration enquiries, please phone 1300 419 495 (within Australia) + 61 3 9285 3010 (overseas callers).


Page reviewed 24/11/2021