October 2021

Issue 19 - October 2021 


From the Chair

Ian Bluntish

Welcome to the Board’s October 2021 newsletter. Optometrists have now joined the surge workforce as part of the 2021 pandemic response sub-register, which is allowing for thousands of extra health practitioners to be eligible to boost the health workforce. Read more about it in the newsletter.

Board members have been talking to final year students through a series of university lectures for students of approved optometry programs. We encourage all final year students to apply for registration as soon as possible – see the newsletter for more details.

The new CPD standard has now been in effect for just under a year, and while we recognise that some optometrists may have difficulty meeting the standard, we encourage you to make reasonable efforts to meet the requirements. To help with understanding the changes, we have launched a video on frequently asked questions: see our CPD page.

Ian Bluntish
Chair, Optometry Board of Australia

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Board news

No place for sexism, sexual harassment or gendered violence in healthcare

There is no place for sexism, sexual harassment or gendered violence in healthcare. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards want to remind registered health practitioners of their professional obligations and encourage speaking up about disrespectful behaviour and unprofessional conduct in healthcare.

See our joint statement, No place for sexism, sexual harassment or violence in healthcare.

Our expectations of practitioner conduct and respectful, professional behaviour, including maintaining appropriate professional boundaries, are set out in the Board’s Code of conduct.

Practitioners must always treat patients, consumers, students, employees and colleagues with respect. They must always communicate professionally and respectfully with and about others, including when using social media. Respect is a cornerstone of good, professional practice and it is fundamental to the Australian community’s trust in registered health practitioners.

Concerns about a registered health practitioner’s unprofessional conduct, including sexual harassment, should be reported to Ahpra. For more information, visit the Ahpra website.

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New video explains CPD changes

Continuing professional development (CPD) is an important component in the continued provision of safe and effective services and a registration requirement for all practising optometrists.

The Board’s revised CPD registration standard came into effect on 1 December 2020. The standard is published on our CPD page and we encourage you to familiarise yourself with it. More information relating to the standard can be found in the news item.

The Board has put together a video to help answer some of your questions about what the changes to the CPD registration standard mean for optometrists. We expect all registered optometrists, except those with student or non-practising registration, to apply the changes.

Please read the story below: ‘Online renewal for optometrists is open’ for the Board’s position on flexibility around CPD requirements during 2021 renewals.

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Board member updates

Chair Ian Bluntish reflects on his time on the Board

We are saying farewell to Ian, who is leaving the Board after four terms, two of these as Chair. We asked him about his experience and reflections.

Can you tell us a little about your background and why you joined the Board?

Beyond being a practising optometrist, I became involved in the professional association with involvement on state and national councils and numerous committees and then terms as State and National President.

All of this gave me experience around not only the profession but the politics and regulatory environments in which we work and that support us as practitioners. Professions can only be successful if they truly meet the needs and expectations of their patients and the wider communities in which they operate. This led me to seek appointment to the old SA Optometry Board and then we made the transition to the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).

What is your view of the achievements of the National Scheme in its 11 years of operation?

The National Scheme has, in my opinion, brought far more professionalism, independence, accountability and transparency to regulation. This has been achieved via a wide range of procedural processes which may frustrate some, but these bring natural justice and evidence-based regulation to ensure that all healthcare professions provide a standard of care expected by the Australian community.

And for the Optometry Board?

The Optometry Board has participated in the development of multi-professional standards and guidelines which reflect the roles that optometrists are increasing playing within this workforce. The restructuring of the CPD standard reflects a more contemporary expectation of professional development and accountability for practitioners. Also, we now have over 65 per cent of practitioners qualified and endorsed to prescribe medications for eye diseases, which provides a far greater community benefit and enables optometrists to play a more comprehensive role within the wider healthcare system.

What do you think the future holds for the Board and the scheme?

The Board comprising both practitioner members and community members will continue to provide the right balance of profession-specific and wider cross-profession regulation. This focuses on balancing the expanding skills of practitioners with the increasing community expectations of advanced but safe optometric care.

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Profile: Ms Adrienne Farago, community member

Adrienne Farago image of woman

We are also saying farewell to Adrienne, who is leaving the Board after three terms. We asked her about her experience and what she’d say to other potential community members.

What attracted you to working with the Optometry Board?

I have worn glasses since I was in primary school. I will never forget the day I could suddenly see the blackboard really clearly for the first time. As an adult, I had a retinal detachment, capably and quickly picked up by my optometrist. Two operations later and my eye was, and remains, in very good condition.

I was and still am very grateful to the profession for my eyesight; when I saw the advertisement looking for a community member for the Optometry Board, I jumped at the chance.

What are your reflections on your nine years on the Board?

Regulation is a strange beast. Most people see it as ‘bureaucratic red tape’ and as a burden in their lives. When it works well regulation is in the background and invisible; it only captures the limelight when something goes wrong.

I am proud of my work and that my colleagues in this largely invisible role, and of the way we have kept looking to the future, adapting and problem solving. I am proud of the way we have dealt with the relatively small number of practitioners who have not met expectations, and of the role we have played in protecting the public.

The people I’ve worked with during my three terms on the Optometry Board have without exception been collegiate, skilled and hard working. And most importantly, from my point of view, practitioner members have listened carefully and respectfully to the views of non-practitioners such as myself. It has been a privilege to represent the views of the community – which I have interpreted by taking what I hope is a commonsense approach – to my practitioner colleagues.

What would you recommend to others interested in becoming a community member of the Board?

The primary purpose of the work of the Board is to protect the public. This broad concept has been added to in recent years by making explicit the requirement that decisions must give at least equal weight to the expectations of the public as to those of professional peers.

My shorthand way of thinking about this is that our decisions have to pass the pub test, and that perception is as important as fact. This is where the role of the community members becomes more important.

To anyone who might be interested in taking on a job as a community Board member – it is an important and satisfying job. Our health professionals need a robust and practical system of regulation and community members have a major role in helping to ensure that community expectations are met, and the credibility of the National Scheme is protected.

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Registration

Online renewal for optometrists is open – what’s different this year?

Registration renewal for optometry is open, so keep an eye out for the email from Ahpra providing access to online renewal. You have until 30 November to submit your application before late fees apply.

Renewal is now online only and there are changes to payment options

We’ve moved to online only for general, specialist and non-practising registration renewal. Over 99 per cent of health practitioners already renew online, it’s the quickest and easiest way to renew.

Renewal fees can be paid by credit/debit card. If you do not have a credit/debit card you can purchase a pre-paid debit card from various retail outlets for a nominal fee. BPay is no longer available.

Embedding cultural safety in the ways we work

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme’s (National Scheme) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy aims to make patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples the norm. We strive to embed cultural safety in the ways we work within the National Scheme too.

From 2021, you’ll be asked if you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander when you renew your registration. This will help us continue to develop culturally safe ways of working.

Advertising declaration and audit

Proactive advertising audits have now started. If you are renewing your general registration in 2021, you will be asked to declare that, if you are advertising health services, your advertising complies with Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) advertising requirements.

Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service are available to help health practitioners understand their obligations when they are advertising.

The audit is part of a risk-based approach to improve compliance with the National Law’s advertising requirements by registered health practitioners who advertise their services. This approach is set out in the Advertising Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

For more information and advertising resources, visit the Advertising hub on the Ahpra website.

Continuing professional development 2021

The Board expects you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required continuing professional development (CPD) for the 2020–21 registration period. However, we understand that some optometrists may have had trouble fully meeting CPD, particularly any face to face requirements, due to the impacts of COVID-19. CPD is important as it helps maintain competence and supports safe and effective care.

The Board will not take action if you have not been able to complete CPD due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19.

It’s important that you answer all questions honestly and accurately when completing your registration renewal. You must declare that you have not met the CPD requirements if that is the case.

In the future the Board may request evidence of what you have done to address any identified gaps in your CPD learning needs such as interactive or face to face CPD.

Given the importance of CPD and the increasing availability of flexible and COVID-safe CPD options, you will be expected to fully meet CPD requirements in future and when renewing in 2022. Remember:

  • there are many flexible-delivery and COVID-safe options for CPD and interactive CPD can be completed virtually, and
  • COVID-related learning activities can be counted towards CPD.

If you have not met the CPD requirements because of disruptions caused by COVID-19 you should update your CPD plan to explain how you will address any resulting learning needs, such as your face to face or interactive requirements, in the next registration period. The Board expects you to access any specific training as soon as you can, for example by scheduling face to face activities when available.

What if I can’t meet recency of practice requirements due to COVID-19?

We are aware that some optometrists’ personal circumstances, in combination with the impact of COVID-19, may mean they are concerned about not meeting the Board’s recency of practice requirements. We’d like to remind you that practice is not limited to direct face-to-face patient contact but can also include any role where you use your skills and knowledge as a registered health practitioner. More information about how the Board defines practice can be found in the Recency of practice registration standard.

It is important to be honest in your declarations when renewing your registration. If you declare you have not met recency requirements you should provide details to the Board of why you have not met the standard. Declarations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

See the news item for more information.

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Registration fees for 2021–22

The Board has announced the national registration fee for optometry for 2021–22.

  • The Board has increased the registration fee for optometry by 3 per cent indexation to $327.
  • The fee for practitioners whose principal place of practice is New South Wales is $323.

A full fee schedule, including the fee arrangements for practitioners whose principal place of practice is NSW (a co-regulatory jurisdiction), is published on the Board’s website.

The Board’s decision to increase the fee by indexation for the 2021–22 period ensures we have sufficient income to allow us to carry out our duties and protect the public. For more information, read the news item.

Ahpra and the Board recognise the effect that the lockdowns may have had and have put in place a registration and renewal fee payment plan for practitioners experiencing financial hardship. To read more about the payment plan, see the Consideration of financial hardship page.

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Latest workforce data released

The Board’s latest quarterly registration data has been released. The report covers the period 1 April to 30 June 2021. As of that date, there are 6,288 registered optometrists in Australia, of whom 6,084 have general registration.

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

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Students and graduates

Graduating soon? Be ready to start work – apply now

Once you are registered, you can work as an optometrist anywhere in Australia.

Before you can start practising and using the protected title ‘optometrist’, you must be registered with the Optometry Board of Australia (the Board).

If you're set to complete your course within the next three months, apply for registration now. We'll start assessing your application while we wait for your graduate results.

What are the requirements?

Requirements for registration include proving that you have met the Board’s registration standards for:

  • criminal history
  • English language skills, and
  • professional indemnity insurance.

You will also need to declare any health impairments that may affect your ability to practise.

You can also check out the Board’s video for graduating students which introduces you to the Board, outlines the standards that must be met to become registered and the professional standards expected of the profession in order to stay registered.

Getting your application right

See the Board’s news item for information about the process and the steps you need to complete, including creating your account on Ahpra’s online services portal and getting the photo ID requirements right. The news item links to a handy guide to certifying documents that you can download and take with you to the authorised officer.

Watch Ahpra’s graduate video, and you’ll also find helpful advice, tips for avoiding common causes of delay and downloadable information flyers on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website.

Once you are registered

When you are registered, we will publish your name to the Register of practitioners (the public register) and you can start working as an optometrist.

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Alerts

Information for practitioners on voluntary assisted dying law in Western Australia

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) (the Act) came into effect on 1 July 2021. Registered health practitioners need to be aware of the Act and its requirements. There are some provisions that are relevant to all registered health practitioners (and healthcare workers) and some provisions that are more specifically relevant to medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and paramedics.

Resources have been developed by the WA Department of Health and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Leadership Team in collaboration with stakeholders. These are available at: ww2.health.wa.gov.au/voluntaryassisteddying

The following resource provides a starting point for health practitioners in understanding their obligations, responsibilities and protections under the Act:

For further information, visit the website.

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Information for practitioners on changes to Queensland Criminal Code: Child Sexual Offences

As of 5 July 2021, Queensland’s Criminal Code Act 1899 is amended under the Criminal Code (Child Sexual Offences Reform) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 to include two new offences (Criminal Code, Chapter 22 – Offences against morality):

  • ss. 229BB – Failure to protect a child from a sexual offence: will make it an offence to fail to protect a child from a sexual offence in an institutional setting. The offence will be punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment for an ‘accountable person’ who fails to protect a child from a sexual offence
  • ss. 229BC – Failure to report sexual offending against a child to police: will make it an offence for any adult not to report sexual offending against a child by another adult to police. This obligation extends outside of the workplace to our responsibility as members of the Queensland community to protect children. The offence will be punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment for any adult who fails to report child sexual abuse to police.

These new offences recognise the difficulties victims have in disclosing or reporting abuse, the vulnerability of children, and the risk that perpetrators of child sexual abuse may have multiple victims and may continue to reoffend against particular victims over lengthy periods of time.

The Criminal Code amendment does not replace the mandatory reporting obligations of doctors and registered nurses under the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) (the CP Act).

This advice applies to all registered health practitioners; for further information please visit: www.qld.gov.au/law/crime-and-police/types-of-crime/sexual-offences-against-children

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National Scheme news

Thousands more health practitioners now able to join the pandemic response

From 22 September, thousands of extra health practitioners, including optometrists, can join the COVID-19 response through a new temporary sub-register established by Ahpra and the National Boards.

Key points

  • 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 practise 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 whose members 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 and 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, including optometrists, join 26,000 practitioners on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register first established in April 2020 and extended in April 2021 for a further 12 months.

What’s different about the new sub-register?

Those on the new 2021 sub-register can practise to the full scope of their registration, while practitioners on the 2020 pandemic sub-register are restricted to working in areas directly supporting the COVID-19 response, such as administering the COVID-19 vaccination or backfilling for furloughed staff.

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. Read more about this in the news item, which contains useful links and information about employment.

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COVID-19 and vaccines: new joint statement helps sort fact from fiction

A joint statement has been released by Ahpra and the National Boards, the Health Care Complaints Commission, the Office of the Health Ombudsman and the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Its message is: You need reliable, evidence-based information to be able to make good choices about your healthcare. But in a climate thick with commentary about COVID-19 and vaccines, how do you sort fact from fiction

The statement covers four main points:

  • Get advice from the experts (with a link to the national online register of practitioners).
  • Be safe in the knowledge that registered health practitioners must meet national standards (with links to the National Boards’ websites).
  • Don’t get swayed by opinions.
  • Reach out to a trusted person, like your GP.

It also lists and links to reliable sources of information on COVID-19 and vaccinations in Australia to help people make sure they have the best, most accurate and evidence-based information for their specific needs when making decisions about their own or their loved ones’ health

The statement has been translated into Arabic, Farsi, Greek, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese. These versions are available on Ahpra’s Translations page.

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New independent accreditation committee established

A new independent accreditation committee has been established by Ahpra in line with Health Ministers’ policy direction issued earlier this year and as a key element of Health Ministers’ response to the Independent review of accreditation systems final report. Accreditation provides a framework for assuring that individuals seeking registration are suitably trained, qualified and competent to practise as health practitioners in Australia.

The broad stakeholder membership of the committee will bring a wide range of perspectives to the new committee’s work, recognising the importance of professional and accreditation expertise as well as community, employer and education provider involvement. Members have been appointed for a three-year term and committee’s terms of reference have been published on the Ahpra website. Read more in the news item.

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You may notice that the public register looks a little different

Ahpra has launched a new-look public register with enhanced search capabilities. The aim of the enhancements is to make the register easier to use, especially for those in our communities who may have barriers to access. Some of the changes you’ll see include:

  • increased prominence of the register on the Ahpra homepage so it’s easier to find
  • simplified language with pop-up information boxes, and
  • improved search functionality, including:
    • predictive text
    • phonetic searching capability
    • search by location, and
    • refined search filters (including being able to search by the 15 most common community languages).

To help users navigate the new-look register, we’ve developed a ‘how to search’ video which is available on our Help and tips page.

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Guidance on reflective practice reports

If a practitioner has been the subject of a notification to Ahpra or the Board, they may be required by the conditions on their registration to do specified education. This is usually accompanied by a requirement to provide the Board with a reflective practice report demonstrating how they have reflected on the issues that gave rise to the condition and outlining how they have incorporated these lessons into practice

New guidance is now available for practitioners who are subject to education or mentoring conditions as part of their registration. The new guidance: Information sheet – Reflective reports (Education) and Information sheet – Reflective reports (Mentoring) is published under the Monitoring and compliance section on the Ahpra website. The guidance on developing a reflective report is endorsed by the Board

National Boards have also approved a new form for review of conditions of undertakings (form ARCD-00) which is published on the Registration Common forms page. Ahpra is also developing guidance for practitioners on the information required by National Boards when considering applications to change or remove conditions or undertakings.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Board website for registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs.
  • 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: Ian Bluntish, Chair, Optometry Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 27/10/2021