Fixing the system: Aaron Motsoaledi has directed the Council for Medical Schemes to devise an exemption framework. Picture: SOWETAN
Fixing the system: Aaron Motsoaledi has directed the Council for Medical Schemes to devise an exemption framework. Picture: SOWETAN

The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) is poised to begin public consultation on a contentious set of regulations aimed at defining the scope of practice of psychologists.

Nonclinical psychologists say the regulations are so narrowly defined, they stop them from providing legitimate services. To add to their woes, some medical schemes have interpreted the regulations in such a way that they will no longer reimburse services provided by nonclinical psychologists, such as educational, counselling and industrial psychologists.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has until November 2018 to revise the regulations, which were promulgated in 2011 but declared invalid by the courts after a challenge from the Recognition of Life Long Learning in Psychology Action Group and the Justice Alliance of SA. The declaration of invalidity was suspended pending the finalisation of revised regulations.

Last week, the HPCSA said that a working group established by its Professional Board for Psychology (PGP) would begin consultations with industry groups and professional associations in May. It also called for written submissions.

PGP chairman Basil Pillay said the regulations were intended to improve the definition of nonclinical psychologists’ scope of practice. The aim was not only to protect patients by ensuring psychologists did not offer services they were not qualified to provide, but also to expand their scope of practice in some areas. For example, the 2011 regulations extended the scope of practice of educational psychologists beyond children to include adults, he said.

News of the planned public consultations was met with scepticism by the Educational Psychology Association of SA. "That the HPCSA and the [board] state that a task team is actively working to meet the deadline stipulated by the high court is cold comfort to practitioners and their clients or patients who are suffering in the interim. The [board] should be correcting those medical aids that are misinterpreting the scope of practice right now," said association chairman Martin Strous.

He said the association had become disillusioned with the attitude of the Council for Medical Schemes, which regulates medical schemes, and the board towards scope of practice issues, which had placed the educational psychology profession in crisis.

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