The practice of medicine is challenging. Living up to our own and other people’s expectations can be hard work. beyondblue last year released the findings of a large survey which showed very high levels of stress, distress and mental health problems among doctors and medical students in Australia. Doctors are notorious for not seeking help when they need it, particularly when they feel vulnerable. There is good evidence to show that doctors' health programs can help to address these problems by raising awareness of the issues, education, and advocacy for healthier doctors and medical students. They can also provide early intervention, triage, assessment and appropriate referrals. The best programs in the world also provide case management services and assist with safe re-entry to the workforce.
The Medical Board has decided to fund a national network of these services around Australia and looks forward to working with the existing programs, the AMA, beyondblue and other key stakeholders as we develop the governance arrangements and implementation plans.
Dr Joanna Flynn AM
Chair, Medical Board of Australia
Health programs for medical practitioners and students
Board to fund new health programs
The Medical Board will fund health programs to deliver a nationally consistent set of services to medical practitioners and students in all states and territories, to be run at arm’s length from the Board.
This will improve Australian doctors’ access to health programs and strengthen current services for most doctors.
Through these programs, medical practitioners and medical students in all states and territories will have access to the same suite of services, which will include advice and referral, education and awareness, general advocacy and the development of case management services.
Speaking to the media on this issue, Board Chair Dr Joanna Flynn AM said this was a really important decision for the Board and for all Australian doctors.
‘Our message is clear: we care about the wellbeing of medical practitioners and students and we are improving their access to health services,’ she said.
In March 2013, the Board announced that it would fund an external health program for doctors that would be nationally equitable, external, and support and promote doctors’ health. The Board confirmed the program would be funded from within existing Board resources and complement the regulatory focus of the Board and AHPRA, which is to manage practitioners with an impairment that may place the public at risk.
The Board then commissioned an independent report to advise on possible governance arrangements for external health programs, services to be provided, funding models and contractual arrangements.
This decision makes clear what services will be provided, how and where. It follows – and extends – the recommendations of the DLA Piper report, published in the Medical Board's media release. The report was informed by consultation with stakeholders.
The Board will work with key partners to establish a national governance model for external health programs that will then sub-contract with state-based services. The national organisation will manage the Board’s funds for external health programs and will ensure the delivery and monitoring of the Board’s model in each jurisdiction.
Six months after the Board decided to fund a nationally equitable health program, beyondblue released the findings of a world-first survey that validated the Board’s decision. The survey, released in October 2013, revealed that thousands of Australian doctors and medical students were burnt out, more likely to experience psychological distress and suicidal thoughts than the general community and drinking too much alcohol.
beyondblue’s National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students found that medical students and young or female doctors were most at risk and identified that significant levels of stigma exist towards people with mental health problems. Some respondents also reported that they were bullied or experienced racism.
‘As the regulator, our focus is on public safety. We can’t provide these services directly, but we can fund them and work with stakeholders like the AMA and beyondblue to make them happen,’ Dr Flynn told the media.
Work will begin immediately to implement the Board’s decision. Services will be provided progressively as existing services in each state and territory can be scaled up to match the nationally agreed model.
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Board codes, guidelines and policies
The Medical Board of Australia has decided to change the Advertising guidelines to be clearer about the use of testimonials and consistent with advice currently published in FAQs (122 KB,DOCX).
The Board has been monitoring discussions about its advertising guidelines and is concerned about confusion in the profession and the community about the use of testimonials and the rights of consumers to have their say.
The Board has decided that the guidelines need to change to make it clearer that practitioners are not responsible for removing (or trying to have removed) unsolicited testimonials published on a website or in social media over which they do NOT have control.
The Board cannot change the advertising requirements of the National Law.1
The change will affect section 6.2.3 of the guidelines.
The Medical Board of Australia will now work with AHPRA and the other 13 National Boards to progress this change.
Until then, AHPRA will be applying the guidelines consistent with information in the FAQs (122 KB,DOCX). This means practitioners are not responsible for removing (or trying to have removed) unsolicited testimonials published on a website or in social media over which they do NOT have control.
1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory.
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Intern training accreditation
In December 2013, the Board announced a new national standards framework for intern training. This framework supports the Board’s approved registration standard, Granting general registration as a medical practitioner to Australian and New Zealand medical graduates on completion of intern training (the standard). The Australian Medical Council developed the framework at the request of the Board.
Under the national framework, the AMC reviews and accredits the authorities that accredit intern training programs in each jurisdiction against the Procedures for assessment and accreditation of intern training accreditation authorities. These authorities are commonly known as postgraduate medical councils (PMCs).
The AMC started accrediting PMCs in 2013. As this is a new process, the AMC is progressively accrediting each of the PMCs. The Postgraduate Medical Councils of Tasmania and South Australia were fully accredited until 2017 and the remaining PMCs have all been granted initial accreditation on the basis of a desktop paper-based review. The AMC will progressively review all the PMCs and will make recommendations to the Medical Board.
After considering an initial accreditation report from the AMC, the Board approved the Postgraduate Medical Council of Western Australia and Postgraduate Medical Education Council of Queensland as intern accreditation authorities. This approval continues until the Australian Medical Council completes a formal review.
More information on the accreditation of postgraduate medical councils for the purposes of intern training can be found on the Board’s website under Accreditation>Postgraduate medical councils.
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News and alerts
AMC review of the pre-employment structured clinical interview (PESCI) guidelines
The Australian Medical Council (AMC) is reviewing the guidelines for pre-employment structured clinical interviews (PESCIs) and is seeking stakeholder feedback on the proposed changes.
A PESCI is an objective assessment of the clinical experience, knowledge, skills and attributes of an international medical graduate (IMG) to determine whether the person is suitable to practise in a specific position. IMGs who apply for registration to work in higher risk positions, such as general practice or senior hospital-based position, may be required to have a PESCI.
The PESCI involves a structured interview using scenarios. The interview scope is determined by the level of risk of the position that the international medical graduate is applying for. As a part of the PESCI process, there is also a reference check.
The PESCI is conducted by providers approved by the AMC. The AMC approves providers that meet the PESCI guidelines.
There are currently five approved providers:
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) offices in New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia
- Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) nationally
- Postgraduate Medical Council of Victoria
- Queensland Health, and
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.
The PESCI guidelines were last revised in 2008. In 2014, the AMC is proposing minor changes to wording and to improve annual reporting.
Information for stakeholders about the consultation is available at the Australian Medical Council website.
This consultation is open until 28 April 2014.
Please provide your comments on the PESCI guidelines either by email to email@example.com or by mail to:
AMC Accreditation Section (PESCI Guidelines)
PO Box 4810
Kingston ACT 2604
Referral from New Zealand’s Health and Disability Commissioner
New Zealand’s Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) completed an investigation into the Advanced Medical Institute (NZ) Ltd. The Commissioner found that the Advanced Medical Institute (NZ) Ltd had breached the New Zealand Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights 1996.
The HDC has published a partly anonymised version of the report on the Health & Disability Commissioner website and has asked the Board to alert medical practitioners in Australia about his concerns.
Restricted birthing practices
From 1 February 2014 it is an offence for any person in South Australia, other than a medical practitioner or midwife registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, to carry out a restricted birthing practice. For more information go to the SA Health website.
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Panel, court and tribunal decisions
Panel, court and tribunal decisions published online
AHPRA on behalf of the 14 National Boards publishes a record of panel, court and tribunal decisions about registered health practitioners. Summaries are published when there is clinical and educational value.
Court and tribunal decisions
Under the National Law, the Board must refer a matter about a registered medical practitioner or student to a tribunal if the Board reasonably believes that the practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct; or the practitioner’s registration was improperly obtained because the Board was given false or misleading information. The Board must also refer the matter to a tribunal if a panel established by the Board requires the Board to do so.
Medical practitioners may also appeal certain decisions of the Board to a tribunal, or court.
AHPRA publishes summaries of selected tribunal or court cases from time to time. These can be sourced at Publications>Tribunal decisions on the AHPRA website. A full library of published hearing decisions from tribunals or courts relating to complaints and notifications made about health practitioners or students is available on the Austlii website.
When investigating a notification, state and territory committees of the Medical Board of Australia may refer a medical practitioner to a health panel hearing, or a performance and professional standards panel hearing.
Under the National Law, panel hearings are not open to the public. AHPRA publishes a record of panel hearing decisions made since July 2010. Summaries have been provided when there is educational and clinical value. These summaries are accessible from hyperlinks within the table. Practitioners' names are not published, consistent with the requirements of the National Law. This table does not include summaries of panel decisions made under previous legislation, even if these were held after July 2010.
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Contacting the Board
- The Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA can be contacted by phone on 1300 419 495.
- For more information, see the Medical Board of Australia website and the AHPRA website.
- Lodge an enquiry form through the website under Contact us at the bottom of every web page.
- Mail correspondence can be addressed to: Dr Joanna Flynn AM, Chair, Medical Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.
Please note: Practitioners are responsible for keeping up to date with the Board’s expectations about their professional obligations. The Board publishes standards, codes and guidelines as well as alerts in its newsletter. If you unsubscribe from this newsletter you are still required to keep up to date with information published on the Board’s website.
Comment on the Board newsletter is welcome and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For registration enquiries or contact detail changes, call the AHPRA customer service team on 1300 419 495 (from within Australia).
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