Key messages

  • Not all health professions are regulated and are therefore registered under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS).
  • Unregistered health professions are still subject to a range of laws that regulate their practice.

Health professions not regulated under the NRAS

A wide range of health professions are not regulated under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS).

However, members of these professions are still subject to a range of laws that regulate their practice including:

  • health complaints laws
  • laws that regulate specific activities such as use of medicines, therapeutic goods and medical radiation equipment
  • regulation of public health threats such as infectious diseases
  • consumer protection laws
  • employment law
  • other laws such as criminal law, tort law (negligence) and the law of contracts.

Risk and regulation

All healthcare practice carries risks. The decision to introduce occupational regulation for a health profession under the NRAS is based on a thorough assessment of these risks.

Professions whose practice is low-risk are unlikely to meet the threshold to justify statutory registration. With these professions, there are other arrangements that are considered sufficient to deal with the risks including:

  • the existing range of laws
  • voluntary certification or self-regulatory arrangements operated by various professional bodies.

For example, many peak professional associations operate voluntary certification programs that:

  • set qualification and probity standards for membership
  • accredit training programs for membership purposes
  • publish a code of ethics that members must subscribe to
  • investigate complaints from health service users about members
  • apply sanctions for unprofessional conduct, including withdrawal of membership in serious cases.

Review of regulation

The regulatory arrangements for the unregistered health professions were examined by all Australian health ministers as part of a review conducted between 2010 and 2015. This review included an assessment of a range of options for strengthening regulation of the unregistered health professions including voluntary certification (self-regulation), quality assured voluntary registers, co-regulation, negative licensing (code regulation) and statutory registration.

To strengthen regulation, a number of states and territories have enacted ‘code regulation’ regimes. This strengthens public protection for consumers who use the services of unregistered healthcare workers.

Introduction of a national code of conduct for healthcare workers

The COAG Health Council (CHC) and its advisory body, the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC), provide a mechanism for the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government and state and territory governments to discuss matters of mutual interest concerning health policy, services and programs.

Information about the CHC’s decisions on a national code of conduct for healthcare workers is available on the Coag Health Council website

NSW National Code of Conduct

A code of conduct for unregistered health practitioners has been enacted by regulation in New South Wales. The NSW Healthcare Complaints Commission has statutory powers to receive complaints from health service users and investigate possible breaches of the code. If the commissioner decides a practitioner poses a risk to the health or safety of members of the public, the commissioner may:

  • issue an order prohibiting the person from providing health services for a period of time
  • place conditions on the provision of health services
  • provide a warning to the public about the practitioner and his or her services.
  • issue an order prohibiting the person from providing health services for a period of time
  • place conditions on the provision of health services
  • provide a warning to the public about the practitioner and his or her services.

Prohibition orders issued by the NSW Healthcare Complaints Commissioner are available on the Healthcare Complaints Commission website. 

Queensland National Code of Conduct

Under Queensland’s Ombudsman Act 2001, a code of conduct may be prescribed by regulation (a ‘prescribed conduct document’) to provide guidance about the standard of service that should be provided by health service providers. The Office of the Health Ombudsman is Queensland’s health service complaints agency.

The Health Ombudsman has powers to take immediate action and to issue an interim prohibition order prohibiting a practitioner from providing a health service or imposing restrictions on the practitioner’s provision of a health service. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal may issue a prohibition order.

Prohibition orders issued under Queensland’s Health Ombudsman Act 2013 are available on the Office of the Health Ombudsman website.

South Australian National Code of Conduct

A code of conduct for unregistered health practitioners has been enacted by regulation in South Australia. The South Australian Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner has statutory powers to receive complaints and investigate possible breaches of the code.

Victorian National Code of Conduct

Victoria is developing legislation to give effect to the Ministerial Council decisions of 17 April 2015 to implement the National code of conduct for health care workers and a code regulation regime in Victoria.

In July 2015 the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services released a discussion paper, Modernising Victoria’s health complaints legislation.

Further information on the development of the legislation will be posted on this website.

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