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Thousands more health practitioners granted temporary registration able to join the pandemic response

22 Sep 2021

From today, thousands of extra health practitioners can join the COVID-19 response through a new temporary sub-register established by Ahpra and the National Boards.  

Key points
  • The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and National Boards have established a new pandemic response sub-register for 2021 (the 2021 sub-register).
  • Nearly 29,000 practitioners who recently stopped practising are now eligible to practice for up to 12 months.
  • This surge workforce will make more practitioners available to help with the pandemic response if they choose to do so.
  • Practitioners can opt out of the 2021 sub-register at any time and don't need to explain why.

The 2021 pandemic response sub-register was established in response to the changing needs of Australia’s health system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes 12 regulated health professions who can work to the full scope of their registration.

On the 2021 sub-register are key professions identified by governments in their pandemic response planning. These include medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists along with dental practitioners, diagnostic radiographers, occupational therapists, optometrists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists. Eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners are being added to the 2021 sub-register if they choose to opt in.

The extra health practitioners on the 2021 sub-register join 26,000 practitioners who are on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register first established in April 2020. Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register have registration limited to practice in areas supporting the COVID-19 response, such as administering the COVID-19 vaccination or backfilling furloughed staff.

Practitioners on both sub-registers can opt out at any time and don’t need to explain why.

Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said Ahpra and the National Boards were working with governments to help support Australia’s health system response to the pandemic.

‘Health service needs are constantly changing across Australia. The 2021 sub-register is a tool to help health authorities meet current workforce needs and those that might arise in the next 12 months.’ 

Public safety remains an important focus of Ahpra and the National Boards.

‘Our focus has been on ensuring that practitioners available as a potential surge health workforce are properly qualified, competent and suitable to be on the sub-registers,’ Mr Fletcher said.

While Ahpra has no role in helping practitioners on the 2021 sub-register find employment as that is the domain of health authorities and employers, individuals who are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 should only work in a safe practice environment.

Background to the 2020 and 2021 sub-registers

  • In April 2020, Ahpra and National Boards established a temporary pandemic response sub-register for up to 12 months to help fast track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners.
  • In early April 2021, following a request of Health Ministers, National Boards agreed that medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists be extended to stay on the sub-register for up to 12 months (to 5 April 2022). This extension was granted to help with the COVID-19 vaccination program only. This is also the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners.
  • On 8 September 2021, the registration of practitioners on the 2020 sub-register was broadened so they can now practise in any area that supports the COVID-19 response. This includes clinical and non-clinical roles directly related to the COVID-19 response. The change to practitioners’ registration followed a request from states and territories to provide an additional surge health workforce in response to significant changes in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On 22 September 2021, the 2021 sub-register was established adding nearly 29,000 health practitioners to the pool of temporarily registered practitioners available to help in the fight against COVID-19 if they choose to do so. 

More information

Visit the Ahpra website for information about our COVID-19 response, including:

Contact us

  • Media enquiries phone (03) 8708 9200.


Page reviewed 22/09/2021