Debate resumed from 20 June.
Mrs SKINNER (North Shore) [7.30 p.m.]: Like other legislation governing the registration of various groups of health professionals, the Physiotherapists Bill has been reviewed largely to consider the public benefit issues required by the competition principles agreement. The objective of the Physiotherapists Bill is to protect the health and safety of the public by providing mechanisms to ensure that physiotherapists are fit to practice. In part 3, which relates to the practice of physiotherapy, the bill provides, among other things, extra mechanisms for accreditation and recognition of qualifications. It defines competence, requires physiotherapists to submit annual returns, establishes continuing competence and gives the Physiotherapists Registration Board the right to inquire into a person's competence and to refuse to register a person whom it thinks is unfit. It also provides that there should be notification of convictions in relation to sexual or violent offences.
Part 4 of the bill relates to complaints and disciplinary procedures. It includes definitions of professional misconduct and unsatisfactory professional conduct, and provides that complaints can be dealt with even if a physiotherapist has ceased to be registered. It states that complaints should be made to the board, which is to notify the Health Care Complaints Commission. It establishes the Physiotherapists Tribunal to inquire into serious complaints that may lead to suspension or cancellation of registration. It establishes the Physiotherapy Standards Advisory Committee to inquire into less serious complaints, to make recommendations to the board and to conduct skills testing of a physiotherapist when a complaint is made. Mechanisms for the board to monitor and manage impaired physiotherapists are covered in this part of the bill, which also gives the board authorisation to make orders with respect to fees when determining a complaint.
Part 5 of the bill deals with impairment and is based on provisions in the Medical Practice Act 1992, which provide for various levels of intervention to deal with different types of impairment, including the management of problems that can be overcome and conditions of registration. Part 6 provides for appeal and review mechanisms. Parts 7, 8, 9 and 10 define the functions, membership and operations of the various bodies, including a Physiotherapists Registration Board, the Physiotherapy Standards Advisory Committee, an Impaired Registrants Panel and the Physiotherapists Tribunal.
The Coalition supports the objective of this legislation, which is the protection of public health and safety by providing mechanisms to ensure that physiotherapists are fit to practice. The bill closely follows the template used in earlier bills affecting psychologists, chiropractors and osteopaths, with a couple of noticeable changes. These provisions were of particular concern to allied health professionals and arose in the first of the bills to be introduced, the legislation affecting psychologists. They concerned the capacity in the original draft of the bill to determine a service of value, to order the refund or withholding of fees and the provision to allow an inspector to enter and inspect premises, seize records, question people and take videos, photographs and so on without a warrant.
When the psychologists legislation came before Parliament, the Coalition alerted the Australian Psychological Society about our concerns and, when we discovered it shared them, assisted its representatives to set up a meeting with staff from the Minister's office and officers of the Department of Health to address those concerns. I have stayed in regular contact with those representatives and am pleased to advise the House that the Government has decided not to proceed with those provisions and intends to withdraw them, or at least modify them substantially. That demonstrates the value of co-operation. I could have allowed the original legislation to proceed and been very negative about the lack of consultation, despite the fact that Parliament had been told that all parties had been consulted and were happy with the bill.
Instead I believed it was in the interests of patients and of the health professionals involved to negotiate to try to resolve those differences. I am happy to say it appears that that has occurred. The Government's intention to use the original psychologists Act as a template seems also to have changed as those provisions are certainly not covered in this bill. I congratulate the Government on taking on board the concerns raised by the Coalition and one of the professional groups involved. As a consequence, we are in a much better position all round. The Coalition supports the bill.
Mr McMANUS (Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary), on behalf of Mr Knowles [7.35 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for North Shore for her contribution to this debate. The Physiotherapists Bill will protect the health and safety of the people of New South Wales through a combination of new initiatives and updating the procedures for ensuring that physiotherapists are fit to practice. The bill includes a modern complaints and disciplinary system that will operate in the interests of both practitioners and their patients, and, importantly, provides for a greater degree of consistency with the provisions of the Health Care Complaints Act.
The bill also introduces a version of the successful impaired practitioners system that has been utilised by both the Medical Board and the Nurses Board in recent years. I again place on record the Government's sincere thanks to those members of the physiotherapy profession—notably Dr Elizabeth Ellis, President of the Physiotherapists Registration Board, and Mr Mark Brown, Executive Director of the Australian Physiotherapy Association—for the assistance that they have provided to officers of the Department of Health during the process of developing the bill and bringing it before Parliament. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.