PACFA submission on National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers

PACFA has made a submission to the consultation on a National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers.

In the submission, PACFA provides an overview of the self-regulation functions provided by PACFA for the counselling and psychotherapy profession through its training standards and the PACFA National Register of appropriately qualified counsellors and psychotherapists, which requires practitioners to undertake professional development and supervision annually and to hold professional indemnity insurance.

Importantly, PACFA’s Code of Ethics sets high standards for ethical practice, and the complaints handling process provides a robust mechanism for consumers to have complaints against practitioners heard and resolved. As a federation of 29 member associations, PACFA also incorporates the codes of ethics and complaints handling processes of 29 professional associations for counselling and psychotherapy practitioners who practice in a wide range of therapy modalities throughout Australia. Member Associations are required to align their codes of ethics with PACFA’s code to ensure similar standards.

PACFA supports the introduction of a National Code of Conduct for self-regulating health practitioners, but with some cautionary advice on the limitations of the generic National Code which has been proposed. Counselling and psychotherapy Codes of Ethics provide much more detailed guidance than a generic Code covering all health workers can provide, and are tailored to the health services provided by counsellors and psychotherapists. Complaints that are heard by PACFA or it members associations are heard by senior practitioners with expertise and training in the required ethical standards for counselling and therapy practice, and understanding of the harm caused to clients by unethical behaviour.

In this submission, PACFA provides detailed responses to the clauses proposed for the National Code of Conduct, and provides suggestions to improve the Code.

The benefits of a National Code of Conduct are principally the enforceability of sanctions where complaints are upheld against counsellors and psychotherapists and for orders to be recognised and enforceable across state and territory boundaries. The Code is welcomed as a first step towards improving regulation of health practitioners that are not covered by the National Law. However, these achievements could be taken further by considering PACFA’s recommendation for the Code to be tailored to meet the needs of different health professions.

PACFA recommends that the National Code of Conduct should be tailored to meet the needs of different health professions. Professional associations could have the option to develop a tailored version of the National Code of Conduct, as appropriate for their profession. Clauses not relevant to their profession could be removed and other clauses amended or added to ensure the Code more closely reflects the profession concerned. There could be a process for the tailored Code to be approved by the federal Department of Health or a delegate of AHMAC.

Download PACFA Submission on National Code of Conduct April 2014