As outlined above, from 1 March 2008 the Minister for Health and Ageing has a new power to determine the formal qualifications and experience required to be an APP. This discussion paper proposes that, for the first time, clearly defined categories of APP approvals will be created, each relating to the category of the laboratory in which APPs practise. For each proposed APP category application, the following criteria would form the basis of assessment of the appropriateness of the APP applicant for their proposed scope of testing:
- training or experience in laboratory management and supervision;
- an understanding of quality and safety issues in the laboratory;
- competence in test performance, test methodology, and test result interpretation for the range of testing proposed;
- an understanding of error in results at pre-analytical, analytical and post-analytical levels;
- an understanding of the interface between laboratory practice and the clinical application of tests; and
- membership of a professional society involved in appropriate standards, quality assurance and continuing professional development activities.
The Department accepts that these criteria are met by all current and potential APPs who are recognised by Medicare Australia as a specialist pathologist. For all other existing or potential APPs, these assessment criteria would need to be applied according to the relevant level of complexity associated with the applicant’s proposed scope of testing and category of laboratory for practice, as outlined below.
The existing arrangements for assessing the safety of supervision practices in laboratories provide a useful example of how a tiered arrangement for qualifications and experience can operate but it is not directly equivalent to the model being proposed for APP categorisation. The key difference is that the Act currently sets a baseline qualification of “medical practitioner” for access to APP status.