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National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions needs legislative backing (NASRHP)

May 10, 2024

By Anita Hobson-Powell, Chair – National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP)

The current Scope of Practice Review has initiated discussions about the “regulation” of the health professions space. What the paper lacks is the recognition that self-regulation can be divided into two categories. Firstly, there are those who truly self-regulate, with individual professional bodies deciding how they will regulate their profession. Secondly, there are professions falling under the National Alliance of Self-Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP), operating to meet external standards for self-regulation.

Formal recognition of the NASRHP as the authoritative body entrusted to provide independent oversight to the self-regulating professions is needed and must be in legislation. NASRHP can ensure the safety and quality standards across self-regulating professions, leading towards advancing professionalism and safeguarding of health services.

In 2017, NASRHP emerged as a beacon of integrity, administering a robust quality standards framework for organisations within self-regulated health professions not covered by the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS). Recognising the imperative for impartial oversight, the Department of Health provided essential seed funding to establish NASRHP, underscoring the vital need for an independent entity to uphold standards within self-regulated professions. Since then, the government has not capitalised on their investment in NASRHP. NASRHP is a body ready to fill the current gaps in self-regulation; it just needs legislative recognition to have the additional impact required for self-regulating professions.

NASRHP’s quality assurance system currently oversees approximately 60,000 allied health professionals dedicated to autonomous service delivery. However, a significant portion of allied health professions, totalling over 23,000, on top of the assistant and technician sectors, operate under self-regulation without the benefit of NASRHP’s regulatory oversight.

As articulated by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in September 2018, the NRAS primarily serves to shield the public from potential harm rather than as a tool to confer prestige or validate individual professions. Despite this, federal and state legislation often references the Health Practitioner Regulation Law, resulting in the exclusion of two-thirds of the allied health workforce.

To ensure comprehensive oversight and standardisation, a legislative requirement mandatorily requiring all self-regulating health professional bodies to submit their regulatory frameworks for independent validation by NASRHP needs to be established. Subsequently, legislative mandates should unequivocally designate NASRHP as the equivalent to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), establishing parity and credibility within the regulatory landscape.

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