In the very near future a consultation exercise dealing with the regulation and national independent registration of paramedics will begin. This will determine the future of paramedic practice in Australia for at least a generation.

The consultation will be a once-only opportunity to demonstrate that paramedics are healthcare professionals able to provide advanced medical services within the community (nationally and internationally) across a range of inter-professional practice settings.

Paramedics Australasia has been at the forefront in seeking appropriate regulatory systems under the AHPRA framework for health practitioners.  The primary objectives are public safety and the recognition of individual fitness to practice, independent from any association with a private or public healthcare service or EMS provider.

On this occasion your active participation will be absolutely vital in one of the most significant developments in paramedic practice of recent times.  It is not enough for Paramedics Australasia and other groups to make submissions. A groundswell of support is needed, and every individual who believes that they are worthy of the role and title of a professional paramedic should become involved.

Past consultations into registration and health workforce issues have typically involved three options: (1) the provision of on-line surveys; (2) a call for submissions with 30-60 days to respond; and (3) a workshop run at a number of locations with participants generally limited to 25-30 to enable a workshop format based on a discussion document.  So there will likely be three opportunities for you to participate.

If you need more information about regulation and registration there is considerable material available from which you can draw information. Much of that is available on the PA website. Start reading now because written submissions will likely be needed by April (PA is currently seeking further details on the timetable).

By way of comparison, New Zealand (through Ambulance New Zealand) lodged an application for registration of paramedics in October 2011. There are approximately 4000 people working in the sector of whom some 3000 are volunteers and 800 are paramedics including those who work as medics in the NZDF.

Over 900 people attended the NZ consultation sessions and focus groups. An online survey was sent to all ambulance officers and NZDF medics with around 40% responding – 2119 people viewed it, 1709 completed some of the questions and 1341 completed all of the questions. Those who responded were a mixture of paid and volunteer people drawn from a variety of practice levels, a wide range of locations and varying lengths of service as an ambulance officer or medic.

On that basis the response from Australian paramedics and related personnel should exceed 3000 or 4000 persons answering any on-line survey and seeking participation in any consultation sessions. On this occasion, as never before, paramedics need to stand up and be counted. We are talking about public safety and the future of the profession.

It is notable that in New Zealand the submission for registration was developed and submitted on behalf of paramedics by the Trustees of Ambulance New Zealand – which represents the ambulance sector comprising the major employers.  Employers and government in New Zealand have recognised the importance of independent registration.

Registration is something that is particular to the individual and separate from the infrastructure of an EMS provider or employers (which employ registered professionals). Registration involves personal fitness-to-practice, while the other is related to infrastructure support and restrictions on service delivery to create an orderly and efficient system of EMS delivery (as outlined in Ambulance Acts).

The consultation responses thus need to focus on the paramedic as a professional practitioner and the registration requirements that are necessary to ensure public safety and the public interest in that context.

While everyone is urged to participate in the forthcoming exercise through one or other mechanism, I hope that some of you will contribute even more significantly through accepting the challenge of becoming part of the core team that will respond to the consultation exercise. If you wish to do that, please drop a line to the PA policy consultant Ray Bange (ray@bange.net.au) or the Secretary Les Hotchin (secretary@paramedics.org.au) who will be pleased to hear from you. But do that now to ensure you are kept up to date with developments.

This exercise transcends jurisdictional boundaries and recognises the international dimensions of paramedic practice as a discrete professional field of endeavour. It is something that must involve all paramedics. It’s your future – and that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.

Ian Patrick
President – Paramedics Australasia