Does workforce regulation have the intended effect? The case of Chinese medicine practitioner registration Academic Article uri icon


  • The Chinese Medicine Registration Act was passed through Victorian parliament in 2000, based on policy research that suggested the need for statutory registration as a means for protecting public health and safety. This paper reports on the implementation and the effect of this policy. By examining registration, complaints and prosecution data from the Chinese Medicine Registration Board as well as comparing the complaints data between 2003 and 2007 across all Victorian registration boards, this paper considers the extent to which the policy research and the policy intent were justified. Based on the experience of the Chinese Medicine Registration Board, the paper points to issues that should be further considered as Chinese medicine moves into the national registration scheme in July 2012. What is known about the topic? Australian Federal, State and Territory governments’ criteria for regulation of health professions are aimed at protecting public health and safety. As such, the extent to which the profession poses a risk to the public is a key consideration for statutory registration. Chinese medicine practitioners have been registered in Victoria since 2002 based on theoretical analysis of the Governments’ criteria, which suggested Chinese medicine to be more risky than some of the currently registered professions. What is not known, however, is whether the research undertaken before policy adoption was predictive of the outcomes following registration. What does this paper add? Reviewing the number and sources of complaints made to the Chinese Medicine Registration Board as well as registration and prosecution data, the paper demonstrates that the policy objective of protecting public health and safety was warranted, and that there is a need for similar policy beyond Victoria. Using complaints handled by boards as a proxy measure for risk, comparative analysis of data from Victorian health professions registration boards between 2003 and 2007 shows that Chinese medicine is a high risk profession. What are the implications for practitioners? With Chinese medicine practitioners coming under the national registration scheme in July 2012, some of the difficulties associated with federalism will be overcome. Other aspects of the Victorian experience will be useful in informing implementation and likely effect of the national scheme. However, the model for health professional regulation remains essentially reactive. Although the management of complaints is an essential aspect of protecting public health and safety, ongoing review of complaints data should point to more proactive efforts to prevent their occurrence.

publication date

  • 2011