September 2021

Issue 30 - September 2021


Chair’s message

World Pharmacists Day is on 25 September and I thank all pharmacists across Australia for their significant efforts during this year and for the difference they make to the current and future health of people in Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic response sub-register 2021 has just been launched and thousands of extra health practitioners are eligible to join and boost the health workforce. Pharmacists have been identified as key professionals in this response. Read more in the newsletter. 

We also have some important updates about CPD, internships and the oral examination, changes to renewal of registration and a new case study on complex compounding.

Brett Simmonds

Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia

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Board news

Internships and oral examination during COVID-19

Are you completing your internship this year? Here is a reminder of the internship and examination arrangements in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internships

The current minimum requirements for supervised practice for pharmacy interns are set out in the Board’s Registration standard: Supervised practice arrangements. We know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, issues such as self-isolation, illness or pharmacy closure may mean interns may be unable to complete the required number of supervised practice hours within the usual 12-month timeframe.

If this affects you, remember that the Board’s temporary reduction of the number of supervised practice hours required for general registration in 2020 remains in place in 2021: from 1,824 hours to 1,575 hours.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, most interns will be able to complete their hours. We advise you to try to complete the usual 1,824 hours of supervised practice, given the ongoing learning opportunities under supervision before you gain general registration.

Oral examination

The oral examination is conducted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) on behalf of the Board. Current coronavirus restrictions mean that the oral exam will be conducted online rather than face to face in some jurisdictions.

Interns required to sit the oral exam online will be advised by Ahpra. If any new restrictions affect the oral exam, Ahpra will advise candidates immediately of any changes to exam delivery.

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Call for applications: List of Approved Persons for hearing panels

Applications are being sought for appointment to the List of Approved Persons (LAP) for hearing panels from active and engaged consumers or community advisors who can represent the interests of the community and health practitioners who hold registration in 13 professions, including pharmacy.

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) has a commitment to increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ leadership and voices. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warmly invited to apply.

For further information on the vacancies and how to apply, see the news item.

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Meet the Board

Dr Janet Preuss, community member

Image of Dr Janet PreussDr Janet Preuss was appointed as an acting community member on the Board from 23 February 2021. Janet’s extensive experience as a Board member for different types of organisations, coupled with her management and entrepreneurial experience, gives her a very broad range of skills and expertise to bring to the Board. Her scientific training has also armed Janet with a questioning mind and an analytical approach to issues which enables her to grasp new concepts and gain an understanding of sometimes complex matters.

Janet initially became interested in health practitioner regulation through her biomedical background and experience in the regulation of new therapeutic products. Janet also has a research background in pharmacology and was attracted to a role on the Pharmacy Board to learn more about the other side of providing medicines to the public.

During her time on the Board, Janet has developed a new appreciation for the depth of knowledge and ongoing learning that is required of pharmacists to simply keep doing their job.

‘On the other side to product regulation is health practitioner regulation, which is in many ways a more complex area because it is all about the human-facing side of healthcare’, Janet says.

Janet believes that having community members on the Board is important to provide balance to a Board that might otherwise be wholly composed of practitioner members.

‘As a community member, the experience you bring to the Board is often from the other side of the table to practitioner members – it is what the general public might experience, which can often look and feel very different.’

With her scientific background, Janet is passionate about building the broader biotechnology/life sciences industry in Australia.

‘We have so many exceptionally talented individuals in this country, often doing world-leading medical and scientific research that all too often then goes overseas to be developed and commercialised. There is no reason that our fantastic research can’t be developed and commercialised on a global scale from an Australian base – it just takes a commitment from research institutes, industry, investors and government to work together.’

When asked about her experience on the Board so far, Janet is appreciative of the Board’s work to protect the public

‘In my short time on the Board I have been encouraged and greatly comforted as a community member to see Board members’ dedication to applying their expertise and judgement to so many aspects of the registration and training of pharmacists. It has certainly been an education for me about how much work and dedication goes into keeping the public safe.’

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Registration

What’s different with renewal this year?

Registration renewal for pharmacists with general and non-practising registration will open in October. 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 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 Scheme’s 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.

Continuing professional development in 2021

Continuing professional development (CPD) is important as it helps maintain competence and supports safe and effective care.

The Board expects you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required CPD for the 2020–2021 registration period. However, we understand that some practitioners may have had trouble fully meeting CPD requirements, particularly any that are face to face, due to the impacts of COVID-19.

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

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.

Interactive CPD can be completed virtually and COVID-related learning activities can be counted towards CPD.

If you have not met the CPD requirements due to the pandemic’s impacts 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 specific training as soon as you can, for example by scheduling face to face activities when available.

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Latest workforce data released

The Board’s registration data report for The Board’s registration data report for 1 April to 30 June 2021 is now available. As of this date, there were 35,262 registered pharmacists in Australia. Of these:

  • 32,417 had general registration
  • 1,750 had provisional registration
  • 1,086 had non-practising registration, and
  • there were nine pharmacists with limited registration.

The 1,758 pharmacists who are part of the short-term pandemic response sub-register are included in the general registration figure.

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

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Practice advice 

New case study published

The Board publishes case studies to help pharmacists understand and meet their professional and legal obligations. A new case study was published this month.

Complex compounding

It was alleged that the pharmacist carried out complex compounding that did not comply with relevant legislation, standards and guidelines. Read more on the Board’s Case studies page.

APF25 expiry date guidance amendment

The Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary Handbook (APF) Editorial Board has approved an amendment to the APF25 expiry date guidance in the ‘Good compounding practice’ chapter. The guidance in APF digital was updated on 10 August 2021.

The guidance that applies to expiry dates for non-sterile compounded medicines was amended to include the following statement:

  • The expiry date of compounded capsules or powders is 6 months or less from the date the medicine is compounded, provided the ingredients are stable in air and not hygroscopic or deliquescent.

Further information about the amendment can be found on the APF webpage of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia website. It is important that you stay up to date with new information as well as consulting contemporary references listed in the Board’s Guidelines on practice-specific issues (Guideline 1), which includes the APF.

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Regulation at work

Latest court and tribunal cases

We regularly publish court and tribunal summaries for their educational value for the profession. Links to past and recent tribunal cases can be found on the Board’s Pharmacy regulation at work: tribunal decisions page. Here is a recent tribunal case.

Suspension and conditions for pharmacist who misappropriated medications

A South Australian pharmacist has been suspended for a month and has had conditions imposed on his registration after being found to have misappropriated medications for his personal use.

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Students and graduates

Graduating soon? Be ready to start supervised practice – apply now

As a provisionally registered pharmacist, you can do your supervised practice anywhere in Australia.

If you're set to complete your course within the next three months and you’ve got your supervised practice arrangements signed off, apply for provisional registration now. We'll start assessing your application while we wait for your graduate results. Once we’ve received these from your education provider and we are satisfied that you have met all the requirements for registration, we will finalise your application.

What are the requirements?

Requirements for provisional 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 must also have your supervised practice arrangements approved by the Board in accordance with its Registration standard: Supervised practice arrangements before starting your internship. See our short, animated video for pharmacy graduates for more information on registration standards and the professional standards expected of the pharmacy profession.

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.

Check out our 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). Before starting any supervised practice, you’ll need to check the public register to confirm that you hold provisional registration and that your supervised practice arrangements have been approved.

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COVID-19 vaccination program workforce: find out if you can help

In some jurisdictions, pharmacy students are eligible to join the COVID-19 vaccination program workforce. Eligibility varies between jurisdictions and may require successful completion of units of study from one or more years of your pharmacy degree.

Authorisations vary between jurisdictions and students may be authorised to only prepare COVID-19 vaccines or to possess, prepare and administer COVID-19 vaccines. Pharmacy students may also be able to participate in COVID-19 vaccination programs in supportive, non-clinical roles.

We encourage you to check information published by the relevant Health Department to find out if you can help with the vaccination program in your jurisdiction.

Ahpra has published COVID-19 vaccination FAQs and statements for practitioners on its website. The news item about the vaccination position statement published on 9 March 2021 contains links to state and territory information on COVID-19 and vaccination.

We thank students who may be taking on new roles and expanding their skill sets as well as students working in practice supporting pharmacists.

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Rural healthcare: the student perspective – a new podcast

Caring for rural and remote communities can be a challenging and rewarding career path. In Ahpra’s latest Taking care episode, we speak with three health students about their study journey and how they are supporting their communities.

Medical student Harry Gaffney, podiatry student Hayley Johns and medical student and pharmacist Debra Lee join host Tash Miles to discuss the unique nature of healthcare and healthcare delivery in rural and remote settings. Between the three of them they have experienced life and healthcare in regional, rural and remote parts of the country including across Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

An advantage of placement in these communities is the exposure to more significant health issues. Due to the nature of regions and distance to hospitals, general practices are often treating patients in emergency department-type situations.

All three have felt the effects the pandemic has had on their learning. While they can see the benefits of some online training remaining the norm, it needs to be accessible to all, including those in rural areas with less internet coverage.

The challenges of healthcare in these communities include being geographically isolated, cultural barriers, and limited resources. But all agree it is a privilege to have these experiences.

Listen to the full episode now.

Did you know?

The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Download and listen to the latest Taking care episode today.

Ahpra releases a new episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

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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 pharmacists, 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 join 26,000 practitioners, including pharmacists, who are on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register first established in April 2020 and extended in April 2021 for a further 12 months. While those on the new 2021 register can practise to the full scope of their registration, 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.

Public safety remains an important focus of Ahpra and the National Boards, ensuring that practitioners available as a potential surge health workforce are properly qualified, competent and suitable to be on the sub-registers.

Finding employment during the pandemic

Ahpra has no role in helping practitioners on either of the sub-registers find employment as that is the domain of health authorities and employers. Anyone who’s in a high-risk category for COVID-19 should only work in a safe practice environment.

When offering employment, health departments and employers also have an important role in carrying out probity checks and in providing any training or supervision of practitioners that may be needed. More information, including FAQs, is available for practitioners and employers:

Read more in the news item.

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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. The statement is directed at the public and 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 a registered health practitioner.

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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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.

What’s different?

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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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.

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.

Accreditation provides a framework for assuring that individuals seeking registration are suitably trained, qualified and competent to practise as health practitioners in Australia.

The new committee brings together a broad range of expertise that will help inform health practitioner education to support future workforce needs and protects the public. The committee’s terms of reference have been published on the Ahpra website.

Members have been appointed for a three-year term and have been drawn from categories identified by the Health Council, with the addition of a member who identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Read more in the news item.

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Research and evaluation framework to embed strong research culture

National Boards and Ahpra have published the Research and evaluation framework, the guiding document that outlines how we prioritise, carry out, manage and assess research and evaluation.

The framework, which builds on the inaugural framework released in 2017, aims to further embed an ethical, transparent and accountable best practice research and evaluation culture within the National Scheme.

The framework covers all National Scheme research and evaluation activities including those led by Ahpra staff and external researchers and consultants. It includes information on research and evaluation principles, priorities, governance and practice, and engagement and communication.

View the framework on the Ahpra website.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Pharmacy Board website for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs. Visiting the website regularly is the best way to stay in touch with news and updates from the Board.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • To update your contact details for important registration renewal emails and other Board updates, go to the Ahpra website: Update contact details.
  • Address mail correspondence to: Brett Simmonds, Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 23/09/2021