October 2020

Issue 21 - October 2020


Chair’s message

Murray Thomas

The Dental Board of Australia (the Board) thanks all members of the dental team for their patience, perseverance and professionalism throughout the current trying times and acknowledges the extraordinary circumstances that everyone is still experiencing in Victoria. COVID-19 is also disrupting the education and assessment of dental students who I know are facing frustration at the necessary limitations imposed by responses to the pandemic.

This newsletter is the first to be sent to dental students across the country, and I wish you all success with your studies. You will now receive this newsletter along with all registered dental practitioners. Whether you are a new student embarking on your studies or a final year student preparing to apply for registration, we hope you will find the Board newsletters helpful now and into the future.

International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW) this month is an essential reminder of our professional obligations around infection control and patient safety in a COVID-19 world. Starting in the USA in the late 1980s, IIPW has expanded to every corner of the globe. The promoted message of safer healthcare practices has perhaps never resonated so strongly for our profession as it has in 2020.

Let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Albert Einstein

Murray Thomas
Chair, Dental Board of Australia

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Board news

Dental profession still managing the impact of COVID-19

While the profession manages our 'new normal' caused by COVID-19, all dental practitioners must continue to practise safely and exercise their professional judgement in assessing and managing risk.

You must remain vigilant as you have an important role in helping to contain the spread of COVID-19. This means continuing to take effective measures, such as appropriate patient screening, and meeting infection control obligations as outlined in the Board’s guidelines.

You must continue to take a risk-based approach to your clinical practice and consider local conditions to determine how to practise safely in your environment. It is important to maintain high levels of professionalism and adhere to the Board’s Code of conduct.

You should consider the current risk environment and public safety when making decisions about the dental care you provide. It is also important to stay up to date with state and territory government public health directions.

Resources to help manage COVID-19 risks when providing non-urgent services include:

Dental Practitioner Support is here for you

Your health matters. If you need to talk to someone support is just a quick phone call away. It’s free and you can seek support anonymously 24/7.

Access Dental Practitioner Support:

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Board approves revised accreditation standards

The revised Australian Dental Council (ADC) and Dental Council New Zealand (DCNZ) Accreditation standards for dental practitioner programs were approved by the Board in July.

The revised standards come into effect on 1 January 2021. The most significant amendment is the inclusion of a dedicated domain for cultural safety. Other changes include:

  • inclusion of student understanding of the regulatory environment as a criterion under Domain 1 – Public safety, and
  • a greater expectation for dental practitioners to work with and learn from and about other dental and health practitioners.

More information is included in the Australian Dental Council’s news item. The council is the accreditation authority responsible for accrediting education providers and programs of study.

Guidelines on dental records retired on 1 October

The Guidelines on dental records were retired on 1 October following a review in 2019 and a public consultation that concluded earlier this year.

The Board decided to retire the guidelines as the Code of conduct contains adequate guidance about health record management. The code is regarded as the crucial document for setting standards and regulatory requirements for dental practitioners. As one of the Board’s regulatory tools, the code will be positioned as the main point of guidance for dental practitioners.

A fact sheet and self-reflective tool have been published to help you comply with your obligations under the Code of conduct.

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Students and graduates

Students are granted student registration by the Board to enable them to complete undergraduate clinical training. You can read more about student registration on the Board’s website. At this time of the year, final year students will be preparing to apply for general registration in one of the five divisions of dental practice.

Graduating soon? Here’s what you need to know about registration

Graduates of an Australian approved program of study can apply for registration online on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) website at the Graduate applications page. You’ll also find advice on how to apply as well as tips for avoiding common causes of delay and how to ensure your application is complete.

If you’re about to graduate or are set to graduate within the next three months, we recommend you start your application for registration now.

Before you make your application, check you meet all the requirements

Before applying for registration, you must meet the following Board registration standards:

  • English language skills, and
  • professional indemnity insurance arrangements.

You will also be asked to disclose any criminal history and to declare whether you have any health impairments that may affect your ability to practise.

If you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to pay the required fees you should contact Ahpra’s Customer Service team via web enquiry or on 1300 419 495 to discuss your individual situation before completing your online application.

Read more in our graduate applications news item.

Profile of a recent graduate

See what your future might hold by checking out the July newsletter’s profile on Patricia Elder, a proud Yindjibarndi woman who started her career as a dental practitioner in government-run outreach programs earlier this year.

Do you use social media?

As a student, now is the time to start thinking about your use of social media and understand that inappropriate use of social media can result in harm to patients and the profession. See the National Scheme news below for a reminder about the appropriate use of social media during the pandemic. The Board’s Code of conduct and Social media guidance provide further information.

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Registration

Renewal is now open for dental practitioners – read our COVID updates first

Dental practitioners are due to renew their general or non-practising registration by 30 November 2020. Look out for an email from Ahpra providing access to online renewal; the quickest and easiest way to renew.

Supporting health practitioners during COVID-19

Ahpra and National Boards are working with government, health services and others to support health practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have adapted our regulatory approach to support you in these exceptional circumstances. Your registration fees go directly to funding this work and regulating for safety in your profession. We sincerely thank you for your continuing commitment and professionalism.

What if I can’t meet the CPD or recency of practice requirements for this registration period because of COVID-19?

We encourage you to continue to do continuing professional development (CPD) that is relevant to your scope of practice and your current work environment. However, we understand that some health practitioners may have trouble meeting the CPD requirements during this challenging time. This includes CPD requirements for practitioners who hold an endorsement to practise conscious sedation.

You are also strongly encouraged to meet the recency of practice requirements. If you are unable to meet the relevant recency of practice standard due to COVID-19, we will not take action. Recency of practice requirements will need to be met when practitioners apply for renewal in 2021. More information is published on the COVID-19 updates All profession information page.

We also expect practitioners to comply with their professional obligations, including to recognise and work within the limits of their competence and scope of practice and to maintain adequate knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective care.

You should answer all renewal questions honestly and accurately and tell us whether you did or didn't meet the CPD and recency registration standards' requirements. Ahpra and the Dental Board will not take action if you could not meet the requirements of either of these two standards in 2020 because of COVID-19.

COVID-19 financial hardship payment plan available

A payment plan is available for health practitioners experiencing genuine financial hardship due to COVID-19. If you meet the criteria, you will be eligible to pay half your registration fee now and make a second payment in the first half of 2021.

The payment plan has been developed in response to the exceptional circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic presents. When making decisions about financial hardship applications, Ahpra and National Boards will consider the financial sustainability of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) to continue to protect the public balanced with the circumstances of individual applicants and access to the workforce.

You’ll need to complete the financial hardship form and wait to hear the outcome before you renew your registration – we can’t consider an application for the financial hardship payment plan if you have already renewed.

Information on the financial hardship payment plan and how to apply is on the Board’s registration renewal FAQs page.

More information on 2020 renewal arrangements

The Board’s news item has more details on registration renewal this year.

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Advertising declaration at renewal in 2020

When applying to renew your registration this year, you will be asked to declare that, if you advertise, your advertising meets National Law1 advertising requirements.

This new declaration is part of a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements and compliance by registered health practitioners who advertise their services. It will include auditing of health practitioners to check advertising compliance. The audit will not delay a decision on the application for renewal.

Audited practitioners who are found to have non-compliant advertising will be managed under the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy.

Dental practitioners who are renewing non-practising or limited registration and those who have contacted Ahpra in response to a complaint about their advertising in the past 12 months will not be included.

1 Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

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Latest workforce data released

Registration data for the period 1 April to 30 June 2020 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 24,406 registered dental practitioners in Australia. Of these, 21,788 had general registration, 1,751 had general and specialist registration, 51 had specialist registration, 55 had limited registration and 761 had non-practising registration. Numbers across the five divisions of dental practice were:

  • dentist 15,767
  • dental hygienist 1,409
  • dental prosthetist 1,228
  • dental therapist 790
  • oral health therapist 2,080.

For more data, including registrant numbers by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.

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Regulation at work

Dentist reprimanded after finding of unsatisfactory professional performance

A dentist has been reprimanded after a tribunal found that he performed a procedure for which he did not have sufficient expertise or experience. The tribunal was also critical of the dentist’s clinical record-keeping which did not meet dental practitioner obligations around health records in the Board’s Code of conduct. For further details, see the news item.

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National Scheme news

Appropriate use of social media during the pandemic

Ahpra and the National Boards appreciate the importance of a vigorous national debate on public policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we remind all registered health practitioners that their obligation to comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, applies in all settings – including online.

The codes of conduct emphasise that practitioners must always communicate professionally and respectfully with or about other healthcare professionals. We have received concerns about the conduct of some health practitioners engaged in online discussion, including in semi-private forums.

Community trust in registered health practitioners is essential. Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health practitioners have a responsibility to maintain professional and ethical standards, as in all professional circumstances.

In using social media, you should be aware of your obligations under the National Law and your Board’s Code of conduct. For more information see: Social media: How to meet your obligations under the National Law.

Anyone with concerns about the online conduct of a health practitioner can contact 1300 419 495 or make a notification.

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New guide to increase transparency in regulatory decision-making

National Boards and Ahpra have published a new guide explaining how we apply the National Law in the management of notifications about a practitioner’s performance, conduct or health. The guide aims to make it easier to understand how and why decisions are made.

The Regulatory guide and an executive summary are available on the Corporate publications page on the Ahpra website.

Review of confidentiality safeguards for notifiers

In June, Ahpra welcomed the independent review by the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner of the confidentiality safeguards in place for individuals making notifications about registered health practitioners.

The Review of confidentiality safeguards for people making notifications about health practitioners was conducted at Ahpra’s request following the conviction of a general practitioner for the attempted murder of a pharmacist who had made a notification about his prescribing practices.

It examined Ahpra’s current management of confidential and anonymous notifications and whether there were ways in which safeguards could be strengthened to ensure the safety of notifiers.

The review found that Ahpra’s practices for managing confidentiality and anonymity were reasonable and consistent with the practices of other regulators internationally. However, there were improvements that could be made.

The review makes practical recommendations for strengthening the protection of notifiers while recognising the importance of fairness for health practitioners who are the subject of a notification. We have accepted all 10 recommendations and outlined a timeline to adopt these changes. For more information and links to the documents, read the media release.

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Social research results, including the Dental Board social research project

Ahpra and National Boards have released results from the second annual survey of stakeholder understanding and perceptions of our role and work. The results help us to better understand what the community, regulated health professions, and our stakeholders think and feel about us, particularly in areas of understanding, confidence and trust. The insights gained will inform how we can improve our engagement with both the professions and the community.

The report provides the results from anonymous surveys conducted in late 2019 of a random sample of registered practitioners and a random sample of members of the public across communities in Australia. There were nearly 6,000 responses from practitioners and 2,000 from the broader community. Both surveys were managed by an independent consultant.

Overall, the results show positive perceptions of Ahpra and National Boards. The surveys were, in the main, the same as ones carried out in 2018 and enable comparison of changes in awareness and sentiment over the period.

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

The reports in PDF format are available in the news item.

To help inform our future work we will survey practitioners and the community again in 2020; the results from these surveys will be released in 2021.

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Building trust and confidence: new engagement strategy

Ahpra and the National Boards have released the National Scheme engagement strategy 2020-2025.

Our engagement strategy outlines our goal of building trust and confidence among our stakeholders in our work to protect public health and safety. The strategy supports the vision, mission and strategic themes of our National Registration and Accreditation Scheme Strategy 2020-2025.

To be an effective and efficient regulator, we must be responsive to the evolving understanding and expectations of the public, health practitioners, our organisational partners and other stakeholders. This requires two-way communication and an active interest in the needs of people who engage with us.

The engagement strategy:

  • outlines the broad principles to guide our strategic engagement
  • aims to ensure that our interactions with individuals and organisations are consistently respectful, person-centred and contribute towards our regulatory objectives, and
  • provides an overview of ways we will engage with our stakeholders over the next five years.

You can read more on the engagement strategy page, including the goals of effective engagement, priority objectives and Ahpra stakeholders.

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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 communiqués and 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.

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Page reviewed 28/10/2020