Paramedic registration – now the real work begins!

The first point to remember on the road to registration – the guiding principle around health practitioner registration and regulation is that the law is enacted to protect the public.

As PA reported to members earlier in the month, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council met on 7 October where Australian state and territory health ministers agreed to proceed with amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law) that will bring paramedics into the scheme alongside 14 other regulated health professions. Paramedics Australasia has been at the forefront of the registration campaign over many years and will continue to be your primary source of information and resources to ensure you are ‘registration ready’.

This decision could really be described as the rubber hitting the road. The work required by individual paramedics to ensure they are prepared for registration begins now. PA will soon be providing members with information on a number of the fundamental links to registration such as CPD portfolios and insurance while ensuring PA members have a sound understanding of the new law and the rights and responsibilities which will flow from its enactment.

A number of important general and specific points arose when the health ministers signed off on paramedic registration at the Health Council meeting. The most significant general point was that all states and territories will be signatories to the new registration regime, which is a significant achievement when considering that a previous ‘opt out’ provision was available.

The most notable specific point is that a compromise position was reached to accommodate the internal requirements of the New South Wales Ambulance Service (NSWAS). This variation to the National Law will accept diploma level graduates as registrable while employed by the NSWAS. While PA respects the decision-making process which gave rise to this exception, it remains a disappointing outcome and PA will continue to progress a strong position that all jurisdictions should be on equal footing with a degree level qualification being the minimum required for new registrants.

It is also timely to reiterate the vitally important ‘grandfathering’ provisions available under the National Law that will ensure currently experienced and competent paramedics, who may not hold a degree level qualification, can seamlessly be registered on day one of the new regime.

The Health Council also noted that the Final report – Options for Regulation of Paramedics has been published. This is a recently updated version of the report and includes an analysis of the ‘evolving’ public paramedic sector in terms of scope of practice and the ‘emerging’ private paramedic sector. The roles and position decriptors which will influence future paramedic classifications are also canvassed while an interesting review of the risk profile of the profession as it relates to the public is provided.

The distinctive workforce profile of the profession, where the vast majority of practitioners are employed by jurisdictionally bound ambulance services, give rise to unique issues when comparing paramedics to other health professions.

The PA National Registration Working Group convened in mid-October and reviewed these outcomes while deciding to provide a range of avenues to members to ensure they are fully informed of the pre-registration processes. You will soon receive a questionnaire, with the responses further informing the working group on the key issues facing members as they prepare for registration. We will also be engaging actively on social media to disseminate information and respond to any queries members may have around the dynamics of registration.

The next major events that will occur over the ensuring six months will be the drafting of the legislation to include paramedics in the National Law and the appointment of a national board to oversee paramedic practice. These two steps will define the parameters of paramedic regulation and shape the future of the profession for the next generation.

In the next edition of Rapid Response, we will address the pros and cons of registration and provide further discussion around the key elements of the new National Law.