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Pharmacists on the temporary sub-register can now practise in any area that supports the COVID-19 response, after changes see registration broadened

More than 1,700 pharmacists can step up to further support the COVID-19 health system response following changes made by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and National Boards to the temporary pandemic response sub-register.

The changes will see temporary registration expanded to allow for “practice for the COVID-19 response”, rather than being limited to the “COVID-19 vaccination rollout” as has been the case to date.

Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said the COVID-19 situation has changed significantly since the the sub-register was extended in April 2021.

“We are responding to requests from governments for more registered health practitioners while also ensuring that patient safety remains an important focus,” he said.

The changes mean that in addition to continuing to support the ramped-up vaccination rollout, practitioners on the sub-register can now also help with: clinical and non-clinical roles directly related to the COVID-19 response; employment and practice as part of a surge workforce; or temporary backfill positions due to outbreak management or furloughing of other health workers.

More than 26,000 registered health practitioners are on the temporary sub-register, including 18,748 nurses, 3,176 doctors, 2,799 midwives, 1,755 pharmacists and 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners as of 26 August 2021.

The sub-register was established as a temporary measure last year to allow health practitioners who previously held general or specialist registration, and had left the register or moved to non-practising registration in the past three years, to return to practice due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Only those who are properly qualified, competent and suitable were returned to the sub-register.

Practitioners don’t need to do anything to stay on the sub-register, but there is an expectation that they are available to practise if contacted about employment opportunities, said Ahpra.

Ahpra said it is currently reviewing other ways to support Australia’s healthcare system in managing the effects of COVID-19, which may include adding an additional group of eligible practitioners from a range of professions to the sub-register to provide further surge health workforce.

“Health practitioners in many parts of Australia are doing exceptional work in very challenging times. Practitioners on the pandemic response sub-register are needed now more than at any other time,” Mr Fletcher said.

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