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Criminal history screenings may cause registration delays

Nurses have expressed concerns about the limited shelf life of newly mandated international criminal background check documents new applicants must submit when seeking professional registration.

Under new arrangements implemented by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) earlier this month, any health professional seeking Australian registration must pay for an international criminal background check for any country they have lived in for more than six months when aged 18 years or over.

AHPRA has previously stated that the new arrangements are aimed at providing a nationally consistent approach to public safety while minimising the regulatory burden on health professionals.

ANMF senior federal professional officer Julianne Bryce said that while the federation supported the new arrangements, concerns remained about possible problems caused by the logistics of seeking the required documentation.

With each international criminal history report set to remain valid for a period of just three months from their date of issue, Bryce said any delays in sourcing or receiving other elements of an applicant’s paperwork could potentially void one or more of the reports.

“You might picture a scenario where you have four countries [from which you require criminal checks],” Bryce said. “And of course there is a lot of additional paperwork to get including certificates of good standing so it means that if there is a three month timeline on the criminal check then it makes things difficult.

Bryce said that with each check expected to cost around $130, the cost of re-ordering a report to replace an expired check could create a financial burden for an applicant.

“From our perspective we would say that there are questions around why those certificates only need be valid for just three months because if the applicant does not leave the country then they would be covered by the domestic criminal history requirements.”

Bryce said further clarification was being sought from the Fit2Work, the company contracted by AHPRA to conduct the checks.

A spokesperson for AHPRA said the new approach was being piloted for 12 months and that the feedback from the ANMF was appreciated.

“The 12-month pilot will give us time to see if this is a real issue, and address it as needs be,” she spokesperson said.

“We will keep working and talking with a range of stakeholders over the pilot.”

Meanwhile in a separate AHPRA initiative all registered health professionals with a substance-related impairment will be subject to routine hair testing in addition to existing urine tests.

The tests will provide additional information on registrants’ use of a range of substances including but not limited to those included in their recorded drug taking history.

AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said the move would ensure national monitoring methods were evidence-based and up to date.

Expressions of interest are currently being sought from pathology providers to provide drug-screening services to AHPRA. The initiative is to form part of broader drug screening protocols introduced nationally from July last year.

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