Earlier this year, the Chinese Medicine Council of New South Wales commissioned research to examine Chinese medicine practitioner knowledge, attitudes and perceptions around the regulation of their profession. The researchers found there was widespread confusion over the roles and overlap between the various bodies involved in the regulation of Chinese medicine practitioners in NSW. The aim of this article is to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is the organisation responsible for implementation of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme across Australia. AHPRA works closely with and on behalf of the various health professional Boards, such as the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, and is responsible for:
- processing applications for registration
- maintaining the public register of health practitioners
- managing notifications about practitioners who do not comply with the Boards’ guidelines and policies on advertising, social media and other similar issues
- auditing practitioners’ compliance with registration standards, such as Professional Indemnity Insurance, Continuing Professional Development and Recency of Practice.
The Chinese Medicine Board of Australia
Each health profession within the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme has a National Board. The functions of the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia include:
- developing standards, codes and guidelines for the Chinese medicine profession
- approving accreditation standards and accredited courses of study
- registering Chinese medicine practitioners and students
- handling complaints, investigations and disciplinary hearings except in NSW and Queensland
- assessing overseas trained practitioners who wish to practise in Australia.
The Chinese Medicine Council of New South Wales
In the other states and territories of Australia, the National Boards and AHPRA deal with complaints about health practitioners. However, in NSW, health professional councils were established to ensure that the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) would continue to be consulted about the management of complaints about registered health practitioners.
Therefore, the primary role of the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW is to:
- consult with the HCCC about complaints and decide upon the most appropriate course of action to adopt
- manage complaints and notifications about the conduct, performance or health of registered Chinese medicine practitioners and students in New South Wales when there has been agreement that the Council is the most appropriate body to deal with the issue
- focus on protecting the health and safety of the public when dealing with complaints
- contribute towards education and research about the health, performance and conduct of Chinese medicine practitioners and students
The Chinese Medicine Council functions under The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW). This overarching legislation has been adopted by each state and territory in Australia to implement the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.
In NSW, Part 8 of that legislation differs from the versions adopted in the other Australian jurisdictions. Part 8 of the Law deals with the management of complaints and provides that the councils established for the various health professions, (and not AHPRA or the National Boards), are responsible for managing complaints about practitioners in NSW. The councils do this in conjunction with the HCCC.
Read more about how the Council manages complaints.
The Health Care Complaints Commission
The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) is the body that investigates complaints about health service providers in New South Wales including:
- complaints about registered health practitioners in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, such as Chinese medicine practitioners, that raise significant issues of public health or safety
- all complaints about non-registered health practitioners, such as naturopaths, massage therapists and alternative health care providers
- complaints about health organisations, such as public and private hospitals and medical centres.
When concerns are raised with the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW, the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, AHPRA or the HCCC about the conduct, health or performance of Chinese medicine practitioners in NSW, the HCCC usually takes the lead in assessing the complaint and seeking a response from the practitioner. The HCCC then consults with the Chinese Medicine Council about the most appropriate course of action to adopt.
Chinese Medicine Associations
Chinese medicine associations such as CMASA, AACMA, ANTA and ATMS are organisations that act in the interests of their members. By contrast, the Chinese Medicine Council, the National Board plus AHPRA and the HCCC all act in the public interest.
Membership of an association is voluntary and their role is to:
- represent their members’ interests in negotiations with governments, health funds and other bodies
- provide educational opportunities and promote professional standards
- facilitate the provision of professional services, such as insurance and legal advice.
(Click here to read this article in Chinese)