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World Health Professions Regulation Conference 2016

From Janice Mueller, Chairperson of the Physiotherapy Board

This biennial conference was again held in Geneva, Switzerland over 2 days in May. There were 259 participants from 47 countries. The programme was divided into three broad sessions: health professional regulation and trade agreements; balancing regulation of individual health professions and health services; and the World Health Organisation’s ‘Health Workforce 2030 – a global strategy for human resources for health’ and Sustainable Development Goals.

It was interesting to hear of the actual and potential impacts of trade agreements on the movement of health professionals globally, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). While the impact on healthcare from the TPP for New Zealand is currently unknown, the ensuing discussion was a timely reminder that healthcare communities have a professional obligation to engage in policy discussions.

The second session raised interesting issues about regulators moving toward a risk-based regulation framework, where regulation has greater flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances, increased transparency, and more informed and meaningful interactions with regulatory partners and other stakeholders. These concepts will be discussed in more detail at the Physiotherapy Board’s annual strategy discussion in July.

Finally, the draft Health Workforce 2030 strategy includes a call for

‘governments to collaborate with professional councils and other regulatory authorities to adopt regulation that takes into account transparency, accountability, proportionality, consistency, and that is targeted to the population’s needs’ (clause 34).

It was subsequently adopted by delegates at the 69th World Health Assembly held in Geneva immediately after the regulation conference, with the WHO commenting that ‘despite that anticipated growth [in the global healthcare workforce], there will be a projected shortage of 18 million health workers needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in low- and lower-middle-income countries, fuelled in part by labour mobility, both within and between nations’.

It was a privilege to represent the Physiotherapy Board at the conference, alongside the Board’s Chief Executive, representatives from other New Zealand regulatory authorities and Dr Margot Skinner, the Vice President of WCPT. The HPCA Act provides New Zealand with a robust healthcare regulatory framework, and I am looking forward to our upcoming Board strategy discussion as we continue to respond to stakeholder feedback and consider how we ensure the regulation of our profession is optimised by applying the concepts of ‘right-touch’ regulation.