June 2019

 Issue 19


Chair’s message

Welcome to our June newsletter. In this issue you’ll find important information about the Board’s work to strengthen ties with traditional and Chinese medicine regulators, both locally and overseas, such as the international regional meeting we are co-hosting in September.

You will recently have received our email request to participate in a survey. We need your help to complete a review of the acceptance amongst registered Chinese herbal medicine practitioners of the Guidelines for safe Chinese herbal medicine practice. See below for more information.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has published new resources to help practitioners understand their legal obligations when using titles in health advertising: see more below. The resources are helpful and easy to use, and I urge you to access them.

In 2018, we launched a Chinese language version of the newsletter. We are evaluating whether it is worthwhile to continue offering this, given the cost of translation and lower readership numbers than we had hoped for. If you need us to keep producing the Chinese version, we need you to access and read this month’s translation so we can gauge demand.

我们在2018年开始发布中文版新闻稿。基于中文版的翻译成本以及低于预期的阅读量,我们目前正在审评其是否有继续推出的价值。若您希望我们继续推出中文版,请进入并阅读本月中文版,以便我们准确评估这方面需求。

Distinguished Professor Charlie C. Xue
Chair, Chinese Medicine Board of Australia

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Board news

The Chinese Medicine Board of Australia annual report summary

Every year, the Board publishes a profession-specific report that gives a snapshot of the profession and its work over the reporting period.

The Annual report summary provides information drawn from the AHPRA and National Boards’ 2017/18 annual report and provides a unique insight into the regulatory landscape for Chinese medicine.

The report highlights the major initiatives actioned by the Board in 2017/18 and summarises data on registrations and notifications. In the 2017/18 reporting period, AHPRA received the highest number of notifications (7,276) about health practitioners in any single reporting year since the National Scheme began. While there was an increase overall, only 1.5% of all registered Chinese medicine practitioners had a notification made about them in 2017/18; a slight increase from 1.2% in the previous year.

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Independent review of Guidelines for safe Chinese herbal medicine practice

The Board has engaged an external research company to complete an independent review of registered Chinese herbal medicine practitioners’ understanding and acceptance of the Guidelines for safe Chinese herbal medicine practice.

By now you will have received an email from the Board with a link to the survey. You can also access it through this link. Your feedback is important, and we appreciate your participation.

The survey is not checking your compliance with the guidelines, it is seeking feedback on the usefulness of the document.

The survey is available in English and Chinese and does not identify you. Only aggregated, anonymous information will be provided to the Board.

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Meeting with Chinese Medicine Council of NSW

In April, the Board’s Deputy Chair Dr David Graham and Executive Officer Debra Gillick visited the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW in Sydney. The meeting focused on collaboration and effective information-sharing to enhance our regulatory decision-making, in the public interest.

 Board visit to Chinese Medicine Council NSW

Deputy Chair Dr David Graham (centre R) and Executive Officer Debra Gillick (centre L) with members of the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW.

Meeting with professional associations

In May 2019, the Board met with representatives from the six national professional associations for Chinese medicine including:

  • Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA)
  • Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Society of Australia Ltd (CMASA)
  • Chinese Medicine Industry Council (CMIC)
  • Federation of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Societies of Australia (FCMA)
  • Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA), and
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS).

The meeting provided a platform for information sharing and lively discussion about issues that affect Chinese medicine practitioners.

Important topics included an update on work of the Board, and separately by the associations, to explore the prospect of Chinese medicine practitioners’ endorsement to use certain scheduled herbs. We also discussed information about a pneumothorax education package developed by the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW which will soon be available to practitioners.

All parties agreed that the meeting was a success and will continue to meet at least annually. A joint communiqué will be published on the Board’s website soon.  

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Regional meeting of international regulators of traditional medicine practitioners

The World Health Organization Western Pacific Regional Office (WHO WPRO) is planning a meeting of international regulators of traditional medicine practitioners in Melbourne, in September 2019. The Board is co-hosting together with the AHPRA WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Workforce Regulation (see the story below for more information) and RMIT University WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine.

Chinese medicine regulation will be an important component of the meeting. The meeting is an opportunity to establish an ongoing network of regulators across the Western Pacific region and a forum for participants to discuss their approach to practitioner regulation and associated policy matters.

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Advertising resources: how they apply to Chinese medicine practitioners

In March 2019, AHPRA published new resources to help practitioners understand their legal obligations when using titles in health advertising. This is an important area for Chinese medicine practitioners and there are profession-specific examples that demonstrate how practitioners can check and correct (if necessary) their advertising.

All regulated health practitioners are responsible for checking their advertising against the requirements of the National Law.1

Misuse of a protected title, specialist title or endorsements is an offence under sections 113-119 of the National Law or may constitute behaviour for which health, conduct or performance action can be taken against a registered health practitioner. However, advertisers should also be aware that while use of some titles may not necessarily breach title protections under sections 113-119, they may be considered false, misleading or deceptive under the advertising provisions in the National Law (section 133).

The Titles tool is the latest in a series of resources and support materials developed to help health practitioners, healthcare providers and other advertisers of regulated health services check and correct their advertising so it complies with the National Law.

The titles tool is available in the Advertising resources section of the AHPRA website.


1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory.

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Regulation at work

Appeal by Chinese medicine practitioner against sentence successful

On 28 March 2019, a New South Wales Chinese medicine practitioner, Mr Qi Xin Chen, successfully appealed against the severity of his sentence for unlawful advertising of a regulated health service.

The registered Chinese medicine practitioner was convicted on 31 October 2018 and fined a total of $45,000 by the Court. He was also ordered to pay $5,000 towards AHPRA’s legal costs.

On 20 November 2018, the practitioner filed a Notice of Appeal against the sentence on the ground that the penalty was too severe (known as a ‘severity appeal’). He was not appealing the finding of guilt.

Judge Flannery of the District Court of New South Wales reduced the total effective sentence to $7,200 in fines. Her Honour allowed the appeal and among her reasons, indicated that the unlawful use of testimonials was at the lower end of the scale and other unlawful advertising was mid-range or below.

The Chinese medicine practitioner owns and operates an allied health clinic in Gladesville, New South Wales, which provides Chinese medicine services. He was convicted of false, misleading or deceptive advertising through the publication on his websites of several articles about the treatment of cancer.

The conviction included the use of testimonials in his advertising as this is prohibited under the National Law and would have created for consumers an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, and which contained claims that a patient had been successfully treated for cancer entirely using Chinese medicine.

Read more in the media release on the Board’s website. 

Suspension upheld on appeal

On 15 May 2019, a New South Wales tribunal upheld the suspension of Chinese medicine practitioner Shuquan Liu.

Dr Liu was also ordered to pay the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW’s costs in relation to the appeal proceedings.

Read the full decision on the NSW Caselaw website.

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Registration

Latest registration statistics released

The Board released its quarterly registration statistics for the period 1 January to 31 March 2019.

Registrant numbers have decreased since the last report (October to December 2018) from 4,993 to 4,857. Of these, 4,561 have general registration, four have both general and non-practising registration, 289 have non-practising registration and there are three practitioners with limited registration.

For more information, including data on registration by division, age group, gender and principal place of practice, visit the Board’s Statistics page.

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National Scheme news

Practitioners’ responsibility to support public health programs

Australia’s health regulators have reminded health practitioners about their responsibility to support public health programs, including vaccination.

Regulators have spoken out to support public safety, given mounting concerns about a five-year high in measles cases and an early spike in flu cases this year.

AHPRA and the National Boards for 16 professions have urged more than 740,000 registered health practitioners to take seriously their responsibilities for public health, including by helping patients to be protected from preventable illnesses.

AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher reminded practitioners that supporting public health programs, including vaccination and immunisation, and not promoting anti-vaccination views were regulatory responsibilities.

‘Registered health practitioners have a regulatory responsibility to support patients to understand the evidence-based information available,’ Mr Fletcher said.

National Boards set codes, standards and guidelines, including about protecting and promoting the health of individuals and the community, which they expect registered health practitioners to meet.

‘Practitioners are of course entitled to hold personal beliefs, but they must ensure that they do not contradict or counter public health campaigns, including about the efficacy or safety of public health initiatives,’ he said.

If practitioners do not comply and meet the professional standards set by their National Board, regulators can and do take action.

National Boards and AHPRA have taken action to manage risk to the public, in response to a number of concerns raised about practitioners (including medical practitioners, nurses and chiropractors) who have advocated against evidence-based vaccination programs. This has included restricting practitioners’ practice pending further investigation, when there was a serious risk to the public.

Read the media release on the AHPRA website.

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‘Let’s talk about it’ videos launched

AHPRA has launched a series of new videos to support the public and registered health practitioners as they go through the notification process.

The video series, called ‘Let’s talk about it’, explains what happens when concerns are raised with the regulator, gives easy-to-follow information about the notifications process and addresses common questions, so consumers and health practitioners know what to expect when they interact with AHPRA and National Boards.

There are three videos:

The videos sit alongside other written resources available on our website, see: www.ahpra.gov.au/Notifications.

You can view the videos on the AHPRA and National Board websites or from our YouTube and Vimeo channel, and join the conversation by following AHPRA on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, use the hashtag #letstalkaboutit and tag @AHPRA.

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Legislative amendments on mandatory reporting and fake practitioners

The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) (the Act) has been passed by the Queensland Parliament. The amendments include revisions to the mandatory reporting requirements for treating practitioners and an extension of sanctions for statutory offences.

The changes to the National Law intend to support registered practitioners to seek help for a health issue (including mental health issues). They will also increase the penalties (including the introduction of custodial sentences) for some offences under the National Law, including where a person holds themselves out to be a registered health practitioner when they are not.

AHPRA and National Boards will now work to implement these amendments. This will require working closely with professional bodies, employers and state and territory health departments to help spread the message that practitioners should be supported to seek help about their health issues.

The passing of the Act in Queensland marks the second set of legislative amendments to the National Law since the start of the National Scheme in 2010. When they take effect, the amendments will apply in all states and territories except Western Australia, where mandatory reporting requirements will not change.

Read a news item about the amendments on the AHPRA website or the Act on the Queensland Legislation website.

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Health Ministers announce a review of the practice of spinal manipulation

Health Ministers announced an independent expert review of the practice of spinal manipulation for infants and young children following the COAG Health Council’s March meeting.

The review will be carried out by Safer Care Victoria. It will focus on the risk of harm and adverse events, and the current best evidence for the efficacy of spinal manipulation to treat childhood illnesses or health concerns in infants and young children.
National Boards do not define the types of treatments in which registered health practitioners may choose to qualify and become competent to carry out within their scope of practice.

Under the National Law, only registered chiropractors, medical practitioners, osteopaths and physiotherapists are permitted to manipulate the cervical spine when treating patients.

The National Law says that manipulation of the cervical spine means ‘moving the joints of the cervical spine beyond a person’s usual physiological range of motion using a high velocity, low amplitude thrust’.

AHPRA and the National Boards regulating the professions able to carry out cervical spinal manipulation support the independent review and await its outcome and recommendations with keen interest.

Read more in the COAG Health Council’s March communiqué.

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National Boards and AHPRA host research summit

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme 2019 Research Summit took place on 27 February at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The summit asked how research can be harnessed to strengthen regulation and improve patient safety to contribute to improved health outcomes.

Led by AHPRA and the National Boards, the all-day Research Summit hosted 17 speakers and drew more than 300 participants from national, state and territory board and committee members, AHPRA staff, co-regulatory bodies, representatives from accreditation authorities and key partners.

With the theme ‘Optimising research for regulatory effectiveness’, the Research Summit explored the National Scheme’s evolving approaches to risk assessment, lessons from research into notifications, and future opportunities to use smart data. At the heart of discussions was asking how we can use data and research to improve regulatory processes and, ultimately, contribute to safer care for patients.

Professor Zubin Austin from the University of Toronto, Canada, was a keynote speaker. His stirring address highlighted that competency assessment has emerged as a dominant issue for regulators, educators and employers worldwide. Professor Austin called for more attention to be focused on notions of teamwork, emotional intelligence, and genuine practitioner engagement as important concepts in defining and evaluating competency.

Read more in the media release about the summit.

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AHPRA launches WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Workforce Regulation

April 5 was the official launch of AHPRA’s designation as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Health Workforce Regulation at the Australian National University, Canberra.

AHPRA, working in partnership with the National Boards, joins a list of over 800 institutions in more than 80 countries supporting WHO programs in areas such as nursing development, communicable diseases, mental health, chronic diseases and health technologies.

Strengthening the regulation of the health workforce is an important part of the WHO’s global strategy to build the human resources needed for access to safe and quality healthcare across the world.

In describing AHPRA’s role as a designated collaborating centre, CEO Martin Fletcher said: ‘Australia’s National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professions is recognised as a leading model for regulating the health workforce.

‘We also know that the global health workforce crosses country borders and is mobile, including in Australia where thousands of overseas-qualified practitioners are registered and take up practice here. It’s important that regulators from different countries work together to improve regulation of the global health workforce.

‘As a designated WHO collaborating centre for health workforce regulation, we’re excited by the opportunity to share expertise and promote dialogue that collectively improves the standard of regulatory practice within the WHO Western Pacific Region,’ Mr Fletcher said.

As a WHO collaborating centre AHPRA will:

  • help the WHO in providing technical support to strengthen health workforce regulatory systems in member states 
  • support the WHO in promoting the adoption of contemporary regulatory approaches to health workforce regulation, and
  • strengthen the capacity, skills and knowledge of regulators in member states under the WHO’s guidance.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Chinese Medicine Board website for news about the profession, information on the National Scheme and for registration standards, codes, guidelines, policies and fact sheets.
  • Read the National Board Communiqué each month on the website: these publications inform everyone of the decisions made at the Board’s monthly meeting.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9275 9009 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Distinguished Prof. Charlie C. Xue, Chair, Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 20/06/2019