National registration of nurses and midwives

The National registration of nurses and midwives promotes a more flexible, responsive and sustainable health workforce while reducing red tape between states.

The final draft legislation to nationalise the registration and accreditation of health professionals, including nurses and midwives, was released last month and is awaiting submissions from key stakeholders.

The NSWNA has been working hard to ensure NSW standards are not diluted under the new scheme, providing more than six submissions and responses to the drafting process so far.

Other issues high on the NSWNA agenda are the need for separate registers for nursing and midwifery; the provision of sufficient funds for boards to perform all their functions fully; and the guaranteed independence of the proposed investigative and prosecution processes.

The planned national scheme will cover 10 health professions including medical practitioners, pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychologists, osteopaths, chiropractors, optometrists, dentists and podiatrists – though nurses and midwives currently make up more than half of the total health workforce.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda is confident the scheme will deliver good safeguards for the public and promote a more flexible, responsive and sustainable health workforce while reducing red tape between states.

‘At this stage, state bodies will continue to manage matters at the local level, such as investigating complaints, while the national board will handle “macro policy”,’ she said.

‘One of the key outcomes will be that health professionals banned from practising in one state will be unable to practise elsewhere in Australia.’

NSWNA Councillor and NSW Nurses and Midwives Board Deputy President Charles Linsell said it is a thoroughly sensible and important move, ‘though, as always, the devil is in the detail’.

‘There are complexities standardising education requirements and disciplinary proceedings,’ he said.

‘National accreditation and registration simply needs to happen. The current system is as silly as retaining separate state postal systems, or rail gauges.

‘Nurses need to be able to move interstate without attracting another whole set of fees and requirements.’

The first phase of the scheme, known as Bill A, was introduced into the Queensland Parliament in October last year.

Once approved, the Queensland Parliament will take the lead in enacting the primary legislation to establish the scheme.  As soon as practicable, the remaining states and territories will enact corresponding legislation permitting establishment of the national scheme by 2010.

The second stage, Bill B – the bill currently awaiting submissions – is planned for introduction into the Queensland Parliament in August 2009. It will cover arrangements for registration, accreditation, handling of complaints and disciplinary matters, privacy and information sharing, and any other matters.

‘The NSWNA will continue to participate in all relevant con-sultation processes in cooperation with other key organisations and stakeholders to represent the interests of nurses and midwives in NSW and Australia,’ said Judith.