Regulating the unregistered: An analysis of negative licensing regulatory arrangements for unregistered complementary practitioners in Australia

Jonathan Wardle*, Michael Weir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractResearchpeer-review


An increasingly large part of healthcare delivery in Australia is provided by unregistered health practitioners, who have not been historically subject to formal regulatory arrangements. This is partly due to the promotion of multi-disciplinary health teams, but is also driven by the increasing presence of complementary and alternative health providers, for whom many governments are hesitant to extend formal regulatory arrangements. The Australian state of New South Wales has implemented a statutory Code of Conduct for unregistered practitioners, known as a negative licensing model, to extend protection to the public with respect to unregistered health practitioners.

All complaints (n=22440) to the New South Wales Health Commissioner between 2008 and 2013. All 20 public prohibition orders issued under the negative licensing legislation were reviewed and analysed thematically.

Treatment issues formed 40.3% of complaints against registered practitioners, but only 19.7% of complaints in unregistered practitioners (p<0.001) whilst professional conduct issues formed only 15.7% of complaints against registered practitioners but 44.7% of complaints against unregistered practitioners (p<0.001). The majority of the acts resulting in prohibition orders would have been preventable had appropriate probity measures and barriers to entry to practice (such as criminal history checks and minimum levels of education) been in place.

These results are consistent with the hypothesis that negative licensing offers no proactive public protection, but is a reactive mechanism. Negative licensing does offer a great safety net protections than previous models in instances were statutory registration is not practical, it should not be viewed as a replacement for extension of statutory registration to new health disciplines, but rather as a complementary measure to existing and new statutory registration arrangements. Governments should continue to focus on statutory regulatory mechanisms for all health professions with significant presence in the community to ensure public safety.

Oral presentation abstract from:
The 10th International Congress on ComplementaryMedicine Research in 2015 (ICCMR 2015)
International Convention Center Jeju (ICC Jeju), Jeju, Republic of KoreaMay 13–15, 2015 
Convened by Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (KIOM)in Association withThe International Society for Complementary Medicine Research(ISCMR)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-19
Number of pages1
JournalIntegrative Medicine Research
Issue number1 (Supplement)
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Regulating the unregistered: An analysis of negative licensing regulatory arrangements for unregistered complementary practitioners in Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this