The Pharmacy Board and Ahpra have encouraged health practitioners to check and correct their advertising to ensure it complies with revised guidelines released this week
The Boards and Ahpra jointly revised the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service, which will come into effect on Monday, 14 December 2020.
The Board notes that anyone who advertises a regulated health service must meet the advertising requirements of the National Law, including registered health practitioners, individuals who are not health practitioners and businesses.
“The National Law limits how regulated health services can be advertised,” said Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher.
“It is a professional obligation for registered health practitioners to advertise responsibly and support members of the community to make informed choices about their healthcare.
“When preparing their advertising, a health practitioner should always put the public first and ensure their advertising is not false, misleading or deceptive. Releasing the revised guidelines today gives health practitioners and other advertisers time to ensure their advertising is compliant before the guidelines come into effect,” he said.
The revised guidelines were updated by the National Boards and Ahpra as part of a scheduled review in line with good regulatory practice. This followed a public consultation to ensure the guidelines effectively and clearly explain the requirements for advertising a regulated health service under the National Law.
“The National Boards would like to thank everyone who provided feedback on the guidelines. Your feedback helped us finalise changes to update and improve the guidelines to support advertisers’ understanding of their obligations,” Mr Fletcher said.
Changes to the guidelines include:
- more content about testimonials, protected titles and claims about registration, competence and qualifications
- new content about the evidence required for claims about the effectiveness of a regulated health service and what is acceptable evidence
- re-structuring of content so that information is easier to find, and
- new flowcharts to help assess when advertising needs to be supported by acceptable evidence and whether a review is considered a testimonial.
The National Boards and Ahpra have also updated the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme.
The strategy was launched in 2017 to improve voluntary compliance with the advertising requirements and to introduce a new enforcement approach to non-compliance.
Findings from an evaluation in 2019 have informed updates to the strategy. Ahpra has published an Evaluation snapshot: Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy which provides a summary of the evaluation of the strategy and actions to improve the strategy.
“Both Ahpra and the National Boards are serious about our approach to managing advertising complaints and taking appropriate action to achieve compliance,” Mr Fletcher said.
“We recognise that most health practitioners want to comply with the law and their professional obligations, and we aim to make compliance as easy as possible.
“We will continue to provide information to practitioners and their professional organisations to help them understand their advertising obligations,” he said.
“However, there are consequences for non-compliance with the advertising requirements. In more serious cases, this can involve disciplinary action such as conditions restricting how a practitioner can advertise or prosecution by Ahpra through the courts.”
Advance copies of the revised guidelines and updated strategy are published so the public, practitioners and other advertisers have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new information and, if they advertise a regulated health service, to ensure their advertising complies with the revised guidelines before they come into effect.
The revised advertising guidelines and updated strategy can be found on the Ahpra website:
• Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service
• Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme