Dental Board of Australia - August 2023
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August 2023

Issue 29 – August 2023

Chair's message

Image of Dr Murray ThomasAs members of the Dental Board of Australia, one of our top priorities is to listen to both the public and the profession. We understand the importance of community expectations about patient safety and the challenges that practitioners face in delivering consistent, high-quality, and safe patient care. That's why we want to bring your attention to Ahpra's review of the Criminal history registration standard. This standard outlines the factors that are considered when a registered health practitioner or someone wanting to become one has a criminal history. We value your input into this review – read more in the story below.

We also want your feedback on the self-reflective tool and fact sheet that have replaced the Guidelines on dental records. Accurate record-keeping is crucial to patient safety, and we want to ensure that the resources we've developed are helpful.

Lastly, we recently had the opportunity to learn more about culturally safe patient care from local experts during our visit to Aotearoa/New Zealand. We value providing culturally safe care and believe this experience will help us better serve our patients.

The safety of the people shall be the highest law. Marcus Tullius Cicero

Dr Murray Thomas
Chair, Dental Board of Australia

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Priority news

Dental records resources – evaluation underway

In October 2020, the Board retired its Guidelines on dental records and replaced them with a self-reflective tool and fact sheet. The resources were developed to support practitioners to understand their obligations and improve their dental record-keeping. We are seeking your feedback on the fact sheet and self-reflective tool to help us understand the impact of this change on your confidence and capacity to maintain clear and accurate dental records.

We also want to know whether these tools facilitate your understanding of the Code of conduct, the principal document for setting standards and regulatory guidance for dental practitioners, including dental records (or ‘health records’ as described in the code).

We encourage you to complete this two-minute survey and share it with any dental practitioners you may have professional relationships with. You can access the survey on the Consultations page of the Dental Board of Australia website. The survey closes on 18 September 2023.

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Have your say on the criminal history standard for registered health practitioners

When is criminal history incompatible with healthcare practice? What risks are acceptable – and manageable – when it comes to public safety?

From traffic offences at one end, to murder and serious sexual assault at the other, there is a spectrum of seriousness when it comes to criminal offences.

The Dental Board decides case by case whether to grant someone registration as a dental practitioner or allow them to return to practice, based on their criminal history and other relevant matters. This process is the same for every registered profession.

As the National Boards and Ahpra review the criminal history registration standard, we’re keen to know what the professions and the community expect when an applicant or practitioner has a criminal history.

We are reviewing the criminal history registration standard to make sure it is up to date and relevant. This work is part of our blueprint for reform to strengthen public safety in health regulation, which has a focus on sexual misconduct in healthcare.

Tell us what you think about the current version of the criminal history standard and other work to improve public safety in health regulation.

Your feedback will shape our thinking. There’ll be another opportunity to comment when we consult on changes to the registration standard down the track.

Visit the Ahpra Consultations page for more information about the review and how to make a submission. The consultation closes on 14 September 2023.

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Consultation on possible further changes to English language skills requirements

The National Boards and Ahpra are inviting stakeholders to have their say on two possible further changes to the National Boards’ English language skills requirements.

This follows broad support from stakeholders for proposed revised English language skills registration standards (the ELS standards) during a public consultation from 13 July to 7 September 2022 by Ahpra and all National Boards (except the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia).

This consultation is not inviting further feedback on the changes to the ELS standards already consulted on. We now want to hear your views on two further possible changes to the English language skills requirements: expanding the range of recognised countries and a possible change to one element of the English test results accepted by National Boards.

These possible changes are recommendations in the Independent review of overseas health practitioner regulatory settings - interim report (the Kruk review), which was endorsed by the National Cabinet in April 2023.

More information is on the Board's Consultations page. The four-week consultation closes on 13 September.

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Board news

Easy English information about the shared Code of conduct is now available

New Easy English information about the shared Code of conduct (the code) is now available. The easier to understand information will help people who find it hard to read and understand English know what standards of conduct they can expect from a registered health practitioner.

The shared code applies to all dental practitioners and was updated last year to improve patient safety.

The code is also an important document for the public. It outlines what the public can expect when they see a practitioner, including information about respect, culturally safe care, privacy and confidentiality, and communication.

As well as the new Easy English information, there are other resources for the public. There are also resources available to help practitioners understand and apply the code. These resources include FAQs and case studies.

For more information, read the news item.

Ahpra and National Boards release social research results

Ahpra and the Dental Board of Australia have released results from surveys of practitioners’ sentiment and perceptions about our role and work. The results will inform work to improve our engagement with regulated health professions, with the aim of improving trust and confidence in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).

The report provides the results from an anonymous survey conducted in late 2021 of a random sample of registered health practitioners. There were 14,670 responses from practitioners across all regulated health professions.

The surveys were, in the main, the same as ones carried out in 2018, 2019 and 2020, allowing for the comparison of changes in awareness and sentiment over the period. The overall survey results, when compared with the previous years’ data, are stable.

Dental profession-specific report also available

The Board has also published a report based on the results of the survey of registered dental practitioners.

Read more in the news item where you can also download the report.

Trans-Tasman meeting to improve culturally safe care

On 30 May 2023, the Board met with colleagues from the Dental Council New Zealand in Wellington to increase understanding between the two jurisdictions and discuss matters of mutual interest.

A highlight of the meeting was a visit to Takapūwāhia Marae, Porirua, about 25km north of the capital. The Board participated in information sessions with staff from Ora Toa (Primary) Health Services on how they provide culturally safe access to care. Ora Toa Health Services is an integrated health service owned and operated by the local iwi (tribe, or nation), and serves people living in the Porirua and Wellington regions. Central to its success in improving the health and wellbeing of the community is its partnership approach to ensuring the services meet community needs and treatment is delivered in a culturally appropriate way.

The trans-Tasman trip was also an opportunity to discuss face-to-face matters of mutual interest and increase understanding of current regulatory challenges faced by each jurisdiction. A joint policy workshop covered:

  • ensuring culturally safe regulatory practices and processes
  • assessment of overseas qualified dental practitioners seeking registration
  • exploring current challenges and opportunities within the dental workforce, and
  • conscious or procedural sedation.

Board Chair, Dr Murray Thomas, said despite the visit only being for one day, considerable ground was covered which helped reinforce the excellent relationship between the two jurisdictions.

Registration news

Latest workforce data released

Quarterly registration data to 30 June 2023 shows that at this date, there were 26,692 registered dental practitioners in Australia:

  • 23,786 had general registration (On 8 June 2023, the pandemic response sub-register was closed and all practitioners registered were transitioned to the public register.)
  • 1,822 had general and specialist registration
  • 69 had specialist registration 
  • 42 had limited registration (postgraduate training, supervised practice, teaching or research), and
  • 972 had non-practising registration.

One practitioner had both general and non-practising registration.

Visit our Statistics page for more data, including registrant numbers by division of dental practice, age, gender and principal place of practice.

Additional English language tests accepted for registration applicants

The Board has agreed to accept additional English language tests to provide further flexibility to people applying for registration. The tests are:

  • OET Computer Based Test
  • IELTS One Skill Retake.

Applicants for registration should visit the test provider’s website directly to find out more about these tests. Information about test providers is available on the Ahpra website.

All other requirements set out in the Board’s English language skills registration standard still apply.

Read more in the news item.

Regulation at work

Dentist reprimanded for professional misconduct

A South Australian tribunal has found a dentist guilty of professional misconduct for falsifying medical certificates to avoid presenting two compulsory seminars for her postgraduate studies.

Read more in the news item.

What’s new?

Measures announced to safely welcome more international practitioners

Ahpra and the National Boards welcome moves to safely introduce more trained practitioners into the nation’s health system sooner, as recommended by an independent review into Australia’s health regulatory settings. The main changes will be:

  • Assessment red tape to be cut, allowing more international practitioners enter and work in Australia safely and sooner.
  • Greater recognition of international qualifications from comparable health systems to fast-track some approvals.
  • Reviewing current standards, including English language and recency of practice requirements.

Interim findings of the Kruk review endorse measures put forward by Ahpra to cut the red tape and costs faced by qualified internationally trained practitioners wanting to work in Australia’s health system.

For more information, read the news item.

Ahpra boosts resources to meet jump in sexual misconduct complaints

Efforts to uncover and act on sexual misconduct in the healthcare system have seen a sustained jump in reports to authorities as well as the number of practitioners facing regulatory action to protect the public.

In 2022-23, 841 complaints were received about boundary violations by health practitioners. That’s 223 per cent higher than three years ago and represents a growing trend of patients coming forward to report inappropriate behaviour.

Ahpra is committed to improving public safety in this area as part of its blueprint for reform and has increased staff by 10 in its specialist investigations team to meet this demand. Expanding its Notifier Support Service as well as working on other commitments for those affected by practitioner sexual misconduct are other ways Ahpra is working to support patients.

Ahpra is creating a safe space to tell these stories. Investigators want to hear about the big and small matters, because sometimes the small ones lead us to identifying bigger problems. And it isn’t just new matters. We strongly encourage reporting of any incidents whenever they happened.

For more information, read the news item.

Public protection is the focus of new National Law reforms

Public protection is at the forefront in the latest round of reforms to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. The changes started on 15 May, in all states and territories except Western Australia (where the changes will start on a later date).

Better protecting the public from serious risk

One significant change gives Ahpra and the National Boards a new power to issue a public statement to warn the public about a serious risk from an individual – either a registered health practitioner or a person who does not hold registration but is providing a health service. Issuing a public statement means we can warn the public about a serious risk at an early stage, while we continue to investigate. There is a high threshold that must be met to use the power, which we anticipate will be used sparingly and only in exceptional cases to better protect the public.

Read more in the public statements warnings FAQs.

Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the National Scheme

Other changes will help us improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the National Scheme and help create a fairer system. These changes include:

  • an update to our complaints process which introduces the ability to compel practitioners to provide information at an earlier point in the assessment process. This will mean we can deal with complaints more efficiently and improve the experience for both the notifier and the practitioner
  • more suitable options for National Boards to respond to practitioners who continue to practise after their registration has lapsed, and
  • improved information-sharing abilities for National Boards with relevant parties such as registered practitioners’ former employers, when necessary to alert them to potential harm to the public.

More information

Some of the changes do not apply in NSW, because of differences in how concerns are managed in that state. For example, the power to issue a public statement and the power to require information at an earlier point in the assessment process are already held by the Health Care Complaints Commission. Read more about the NSW regulators.

The changes are the latest in a wide range of reforms outlined in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2022, which came into law last October.

For more information, read the news item and see the resources on the Ahpra National Law amendments webpage.

Using Ahpra’s data to protect the public and inform health workforce policy

The National Law requires Ahpra to collect, use and share data as part of its work to protect the public and facilitate access to a sustainable health workforce.

We have unique access to data which has the potential to inform health workforce policy and planning. We also want the data we hold to be used to improve public safety, including cultural safety and the elimination of racism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Ahpra’s Data strategy 2023–2028 sets the strategic directions for the collection, use and disclosure of the data we hold and for future strategic data projects in the National Scheme. The data strategy is aligned to the objectives and guiding principles of the National Law which, along with the Privacy Act, strictly limit the collection and use of the data we collect for the purposes of the National Scheme. Information about how we manage requests for our data is on the Data access and research page.

Our new data strategy was developed after an extensive consultation with the public, practitioners and various stakeholders, including employers and health system partners, across 2022–2023.

Read our consultation report available under Past consultations to learn about what we heard from the 109 submissions we received.

Public safer with Ahpra’s 100th criminal prosecution

From fake physiotherapists working in aged care homes, to unqualified dentists removing teeth, Ahpra has now completed 100 criminal prosecutions to protect the public.

Ahpra’s first criminal prosecution was finalised in January 2014 when a West Australian woman was sentenced to a $20,000 fine for claiming to be a registered psychologist. Since then, Ahpra has prosecuted matters throughout Australia with the most in Victoria and NSW.

‘Holding out’ cases, where someone is pretending to be registered when they are not, dominated the prosecution list

The 100th case involved a man holding out as a registered pharmacist.

For more information, read the news item.

Latest podcasts – listen up!

Ahpra's Taking care podcast series covers a wide range of current issues in patient safety and healthcare in conversation with health experts and other people in our community. Download and listen to the latest episode today. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

The latest topics are ‘The challenges for our overseas workforce: Why the system needs to keep adapting to better support a safe, diverse and appropriate health workforce’ and 'Coming to a land downunder: Australia as a destination for health practitioners'.

National Scheme news

Click on the image below to read the National Scheme newsletter. Our next issue will be published soon, and you can subscribe on the newsletter webpage.

National Scheme news banner graphic

Keep in touch with the Board

As always, we encourage you to regularly check the Dental Board website for information and updates relating to the dental profession.

  • Visit our website for information on the National Scheme and the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines, policies and fact sheets. Board consultation papers are published on the site under News.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Executive Officer, Dental Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne VIC 3001.
Page reviewed 5/12/2023