Paramedics operate in some of the most high risk situations of any health professional and often deal with critically ill and injured people. Yet paramedics are currently not registered as healthcare professionals in any State/Territory in Australia unlike the situation in many overseas locations e.g. United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada & South Africa. State/Territory regulation of the Paramedic profession currently either does not exist at all or exists via a series of inconsistent legislative frameworks and/or codes
This means that in most States/Territories anyone can call themselves a Paramedic. The public have no way of knowing what level of training the person claiming to be a Paramedic has and there is some evidence that there are some people operating as paramedics without adequate qualifications (33 per cent of paramedics surveyed by Paramedics Australia in 2012 (n=3289) claimed to have personal knowledge of unqualified individuals operating as a paramedic)
This lack of registration also means that there is no continuing professional development (CPD) standards or other regulatory requirements exist for ensuring that a paramedic’s training is clinically current. Similarly there are currently no compulsory or nationally consistent checks on probity and criminal history as a condition of paramedic practice.
In most States/Territories Paramedics are not subject to specific legislative prohibition to protect against professional misconduct such as practising under the influence of drugs or alcohol or assaulting or behaving inappropriately towards a patient. There are also currently no compulsory national accreditation standards or system exists for paramedic entry level education and training.
Paramedics Australasia (PA) has been advocating for a number of years for the registration of paramedics in Australia under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) (or AHPRA framework for health practitioners) and registration in New Zealand under the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act 2003 (HPCAA). The primary objective of registration is to ensure public safety through the recognition of individual practitioner fitness to practice regardless of the workplace setting or association with a private or public healthcare service.
PA has undertaken research and community and stakeholder consultation on this issue and found that there is both good evidence and strong support for paramedic registration. In Australia the matter of paramedic regulation has been the subject of a comprehensive government study which was discussed today at the COAG Health Council meeting in Darwin today, by the majority of Health Ministers’.
After the meeting Paramedics Australasia President Dr Peter Hartley said that he is strongly encouraged by the positive progress for national registration of Australian Paramedics by COAG. At the meeting it was agreed that the need for registration of Australia’s 13,000 paramedics can’t be ignored and more work will be undertaken to try to achieve a multi-lateral agreement between national, state and territory Health Ministers’. Dr Hartley said
“Our focus remains ensuring patient safety and greater protection of the Australian public and as the peak industry body for paramedics in Australasia we will continue to collaborate with government and other stakeholders to ensure the most effective, affordable and robust regulation scheme is implemented. “We are Australia’s most trusted profession” Dr Hartley said, but in reality the public have no way of knowing what level of training the person claiming to be a Paramedic actually has. This just isn’t good enough,” he said.