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HomeminewsChanges to the Code of Conduct for Health Practitioners

Changes to the Code of Conduct for Health Practitioners

Changes to the Code of Conduct that applies to health practitioners in 12 professions, including optometry, have been outlined by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). The changes, effective 29 June 2022, reflect relevant and contemporary expectations for professional practice, are more accessible, and act as an effective an up-to-date regulatory tool.

The Code of Conduct includes 11 principles that set out the National Boards’ expectations about professional behaviour and conduct for registered health practitioners, to ensure good patient care and the delivery of services within an ethical framework. A significant change to the Code is the inclusion of revised and expanded content on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety, outlined in principle two.

This change highlights the important role health practitioners have in achieving equity in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

This principle directs practitioners to consider the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their health and cultural safety, including the need to foster open, honest and culturally safe professional relationships.

To strengthen this, Ahpra has developed a monitoring framework to bring together available data to assess progress in achieving cultural safety in the health system for Indigenous Australians. This includes measures on culturally respectful health care services; Indigenous patient experience of health care; and access to health care services, to be presented at national, state, and regional levels.

Speaking of this update, Martin Fletcher, Ahpra CEO, said, “This change highlights the important role health practitioners have in achieving equity in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.”

As well as this, the revised Code presents updates to include greater clarity on clinical governance responsibilities for those in leadership roles, and more guidance for practitioners and employers to address and resolve disagreements within the workplace, with information about practitioner’s responsibilities in relation to bullying and harassment.

Principle eight, which outlines professional behaviour, now includes more information about vexatious notifications – complaints made without substance, with an intent to cause distress, detriment, or harassment to a practitioner – to help educate about honest and ethical practice.

There is also further guidance for employers about ensuring performance targets and other business practices are consistent with the shared Code of Conduct, and overarching principles to guide behaviour, including when an issue is not specifically addressed in the code, have been developed.

As well as this, content has been reorganised throughout the Code to reduce duplication, make sequencing more logical, and fix minor changes to wording to improve overall clarity.

Leanne Wells, Consumer Health Forum CEO, said, “By setting out what patients and consumers can expect from their health practitioner, the Code enables patient and consumers to make more informed choices.

“An informed consumer has more confidence to ask the right questions and seek out the safest treatment for themselves and their families.”

Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and apply the code in their practice. To assist with this, National Boards have developed resources, including case studies and a summary of the Code in multiple languages, to help practitioners apply the Code, as well as for the public to understand what to expect when seeing a registered health practitioner. More information and resources are available here.

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