In March 2005, following a decision of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the Australian Government requested the Productivity Commission to undertake a research study1. The aim of the study was to examine issues impacting on the health workforce, including the supply of, and demand for, health professionals, and propose solutions to ensure the continued delivery of quality health care over the next 10 years (Productivity Commission 2005b: 2). In its final report, released in January 2006, the Commission recommended an integrated set of national actions, its objective, ‘to develop a more sustainable and responsive health workforce while maintaining a commitment to high quality and safe health outcomes’ (2005b: XIV).
The Commission proposed two reforms of particular relevance to regulation of the health professions. First, a staged introduction of a single national accreditation regime and agency to provide a basis for nationally uniform registration standards for the health professions, and second, provision for national registration standards for health professions through the creation of a single national registration board with supporting professional panels to replace state and territory registration boards (Productivity Commission 2005b: 111, 131). These proposals for reform of the regulatory system challenge traditional boundaries in regulation of the health professions, that is, the boundaries between states and territories and their respective regulatory authorities, but also, the boundaries between professions that are reflected in the profession specific regulatory structures.
This paper aims to foster debate about the rationale and options for reform of regulation of the health professions. Anne-Louise Carlton outlines the difficulties with the current arrangements for regulation of the health professions and decribes the relevant developments in selected international jurisdictions. She also discusses some of the mechanisms through which reform might be implemented.