Bullying and harassment are serious problems in the medical profession and have a direct impact on patient safety. The Board and AHPRA want to play our part in building a future in which bullying and harassment have no place.
There are actions we can take uniquely as regulators, and actions that we need to take in partnership with universities, employers, specialist medical colleges, professional associations and governments. We all have a role in building a culture of respect in medicine.
Despite these problems, the social researched published by the Board earlier this year demonstrated that doctors in Australia enjoy very high levels of public trust. I want to acknowledge the great work done by doctors all over the country which builds this trust and wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season.
Dr Joanna Flynn AM
Chair, Medical Board of Australia
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Recent decisions have been published online
There are important lessons for registered medical practitioners from tribunal decisions. The Board refers the most serious concerns about medical practitioners to tribunals in each state and territory. Cases published in the last month have included:
One case was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Western Australia which was about:
Publication of panel, court and tribunal decisions
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), on behalf of the 14 National Boards, publishes a record of panel, court and tribunal decisions about registered health practitioners.
When investigating a notification, the Medical Board 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. Practitioners’ names are not published, consistent with the requirements of the National Law.
Summaries of tribunal or court cases are published at Tribunal decisions on the AHPRA website. The Board and AHPRA sometimes choose to not publish summaries, for example about cases involving practitioners with impairment.
In NSW and Queensland, different arrangements are in place. More information is available on AHPRA’s website under Notification outcomes and hearing decisions.
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Taking action on bullying and harassment
Bullying and harassment are serious problems in the medical profession and have a direct impact on patient safety.
Setting clear standards and holding doctors to account against them is the job of regulators. Getting clear about the roles and responsibilities of colleges, employers and regulators in dealing with these problems so that everyone knows what the standard is, and what to do if someone fails to meet it is one of the things we will do with others.
The Board has committed to taking action on bullying and harassment by:
- strengthening the Board’s Good medical practice - a code of conduct for doctors in Australia about bullying and harassment and making the standards of acceptable behaviour for doctors clear
- taking the lead in developing and implementing a national, annual survey of trainees which will give them a voice, be a safe place for them to provide feedback on their training experience and enable systemic issues such as potential hotspots of bullying and harassment to be identified. AHPRA and the Board will work with health departments, employers, medical colleges, and the Australian Medical Council to develop the governance and funding arrangements to make this happen
- commissioning research on vexatious complaints to understand how and why people are driven to make them, and what we can do about it. The data we have now indicate this is a small problem with a big impact when it happens. We will publish what we learn and act on it, and
- strengthening Good medical practice - a code of conduct for doctors in Australia on vexatious complaints and establishing a clear benchmark to enable the Board to take further action about a medical practitioner who makes complaints purely to damage another registered practitioner.
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Board endorses NSW statement of agreed principles
The Board has endorsed the NSW Health Statement of agreed principles on a respectful culture in medicine.
The statement shows the Board’s commitment to working in partnership to ensure that everybody is treated with dignity and respect in our places of work, training and education.
The Statement of agreed principles on a respectful culture in medicine is published on the NSW Health website.
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Senate flags new complaints inquiry
In November 2016, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee tabled their report of the inquiry into the Medical complaints process in Australia.
The committee made a number of recommendations for hospitals, specialty colleges and universities to address bullying and harassment.
The committee also recommended that a new inquiry be established.
The terms of reference for the new inquiry Complaints mechanism administered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law are available on the Senate Committee webpage. The committee is due to report on 10 May 2017.
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Providing high quality education and training
One of the objectives of the National Law is to facilitate the provision of high quality education and training of health practitioners. The accreditation function is the primary way of achieving this. More information about the Medical Board’s accreditation function is available on our Accreditation page.
After receiving accreditation advice from the Australian Medical Council, the Board approved the accredited four-year and five-year Bachelor of Medical Science (BMedSc)/Doctor of Medicine (MD) and the four-year and five-year Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) (Hons) program of Monash University as providing an approved qualification for the purposes of general registration to 31 March 2018.
University of Newcastle/University of New England
After receiving accreditation advice from the Australian Medical Council, the Board approved the accredited five-year Bachelor of Medical Sciences/Doctor of Medicine joint medical program of the University of Newcastle/University of New England as providing an approved qualification for the purposes of general registration to 31 March 2023.
University of Notre Dame Australia (Fremantle)
After receiving accreditation advice from the Australian Medical Council, the Board approved the accredited four-year Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery program of the University of Notre Dame Australia (Fremantle) as providing a qualification for the purposes of general registration to 31 March 2018 and the accredited four-year Doctor of Medicine program of the University of Notre Dame Australia (Fremantle) as providing an approved qualification for the purposes of general registration to 31 March 2023.
University of Tasmania
After receiving accreditation advice from the Australian Medical Council, the Board approved the accredited five-year Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery program of the University of Tasmania as providing an approved qualification for the purposes of general registration to 31 March 2023.
Curtin University – new medical program
After receiving accreditation advice from the Australian Medical Council, the Board approved the accredited five-year Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery program of Curtin University as providing an approved qualification for the purposes of general registration to 31 March 2023.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists
After receiving advice from the Australian Medical Council, the Board approved the accredited Fellowship of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists as providing a qualification for the purposes of specialist registration in the recognised specialty of ophthalmology to 31 March 2020.
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Latest profession statistics released
The Board publishes statistics each quarter profiling the medical profession. Data are broken down by state and territory, by registration type and for specialists by specialty and field of specialty.
The latest data have just been released and are available on the Statistics page.
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Australian atlas of healthcare variation
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released an online interactive version of the Australian atlas of healthcare variation. The hardcopy version was released in 2015.
The atlas shows the variation in healthcare use across Australia, across areas such as antibiotic prescribing, surgical interventions, mental health and diagnostic services.
While some variation is expected, it is likely that much of the variation is not warranted. The atlas aims to provide a resource to identify and understand this variation to improve the quality, value and appropriateness of healthcare.
The atlas provides data on 36 interventions across six clinical areas:
- antimicrobial dispensing
- diagnostic interventions
- surgical interventions
- interventions for mental health and psychotropic medicines
- opioid medicines, and
- interventions for chronic diseases.
The areas identified for investigation and action include:
- the use of antimicrobials and psychotropic medicines
- variation in rates of fibre-optic colonoscopy, knee arthroscopy, hysterectomy and endometrial ablation, and
- inequitable access to cataract surgery.
State and territory governments, specialist medical colleges, clinicians and consumer representatives contributed to the development of the atlas. Data were sourced from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Admitted Patient Care National Minimum Data Set (APC NMDS).
The atlas is available on the Commission’s website.
Senate report on Lyme-like illness
In November 2016, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee tabled their report of the inquiry into the Growing evidence of an emerging tick-borne disease that causes a Lyme-like illness for many Australian patients.
The committee made a number of recommendations. The report is available on the Senate Committee webpage.
Opportunity to participate in research into prescriber views on antibiotic use and resistance
The University of Sydney is looking for medical practitioners interested in taking part in an online survey of antibiotic prescribers across Australia to understand their attitudes towards antibiotic use and resistance. The study aims to see what can be done to assist and support prescribers in the future, by identifying challenges and seeking solutions from practitioners. The survey is open to all medical, dental and veterinary practitioners across Australia. By learning about antibiotic prescribers’ understanding and attitudes, the study will help shape strategies to reduce and control increasing resistance seen amongst microbial pathogens in Australia and globally.
More information about the study and how to take part is available on the University of Sydney study webpage.
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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 email@example.com.
For registration enquiries or contact detail changes, call the AHPRA customer service team on 1300 419 495 (from within Australia).
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