February 2017

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair’s message

Closing the Gap is a national responsibility that belongs with every Australian. With these words, the Prime Minister introduced the ninth Closing the Gap report last month. It is now nine years since the National Apology to the Stolen Generations and 50 years since the referendum when Australians voted to include Aboriginal people in the census. Today Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up three per cent of the population. The gap in life expectancy is 10 years. What role do doctors have in Closing the Gap? What role do the Medical Board and AHPRA have?

In New Zealand, the Medical Council is actively setting out the professional obligations of doctors to work in partnership with Maori people to improve health equity and outcomes. A core of this work is ensuring cultural competence, defined as awareness of cultural diversity and the ability to function effectively and respectfully when working with and treating people of different cultural backgrounds.

In Australia, AHPRA recently convened a workshop with a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations as a first step in developing a strategy to ensure patient safety and improve outcomes for indigenous people in our health system. We considered the role of accreditation of basic and specialist education programs and the need to make the Code of conduct more specific about the standards expected of health professionals in Australia. Partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations will be key to ensuring the success of this strategy. Fundamental too will be the recognition by all healthcare providers that we have a responsibility to work towards more equitable outcomes.

Dr Joanna Flynn AM
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Latest tribunal decisions

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 recently have included:

A decision of the Medical Board of Australia was set aside by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal 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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Consultation

Submissions published on revalidation consultation

Developing a practical and effective pathway that will help keep doctors competent and up to date throughout their working lives was the focus of the Board’s 2016 consultation on revalidation.

Hundreds of doctors, community members and educators shared their ideas during the four-month consultation. They gave feedback on the proposal put forward by the Board’s Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on what we should do to build a system for revalidation in Australia that is tailored to our health care context – and is practical, effective and evidence-based.

What we consulted on

The Medical Board has ruled out a UK-style revalidation and made it clear that doctors will not be required to re-sit their fellowship exams every five years. The EAG, which was established by the Board to provide advice on options for revalidation in Australia, has recommended a model that combines strengthened continuing professional development (CPD) and the proactive identification and assessment of at-risk and poorly performing practitioners. We consulted on the EAG’s proposal.

What we heard

The EAG is now analysing the submissions and other feedback from the consultation process. Some general themes emerged, including:

  • wide support for improving standards and managing risk to patients, through strengthened CPD
  • most specialist colleges are already in the process of strengthening their CPD programs, but there is variation between colleges in the types of CPD currently offered (that is, the balance of educational activities, outcome measurement and performance review activities)
  • wide support for maintaining the supportive, educational and standards-focused role of specialist colleges
  • the proposal to identify and manage at-risk and already poorly performing practitioners was more contentious, with some individuals unconvinced there is a problem to be solved
  • wide support for better information and data sharing between health sector agencies, and demand for role clarity to prevent double handling and confusion
  • a need for ongoing processes that offer remediation and support individual practitioners to return to safe practice, outside of the regulatory framework, and
  • widespread concern that any new process should not increase the administrative burden on practitioners without demonstrable improvements in patient safety.

Who we consulted with

During the consultation we:

  • received 116 submissions (published online)
  • met with all specialist medical colleges, the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC) and the Australian Medical Association (AMA)
  • held forums in each state and territory, attended by more than 400 stakeholders
  • heard from more than 1,000 doctors and community members in our online discussion forum (published online) and our online survey, and
  • met twice with the Consultative Committee established to provide feedback on issues related to the introduction of revalidation in Australia.

In addition, the Medical Journal of Australia published a Perspective from Medical Board Chair, Dr Joanna Flynn on revalidation, along with a podcast.

Next steps

The EAG met in February 2017 to review the submissions and comments, and start finalising its recommendations. The EAG will make its final report to the Board in mid-2017. The Board will then set a direction and propose what is needed so that doctors in Australia remain competent throughout their working lives. Patients trust their doctors. The profession as a whole, and the Board as the regulator, are responsible for ensuring this trust is well founded. 

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Online portal for complaints or concerns launches

AHPRA has launched a new online portal with a clearer and simpler process to make a complaint or raise a concern about registered health practitioners.

The portal is available through the AHPRA website. Individuals can also still call 1300 419 495 to make a complaint or raise a concern, and a form is also available.

The same standard applies to information and evidence, no matter what method is used to lodge the concern. Anyone using the portal to raise a concern must declare that the information they provide is true and correct to the best of their knowledge and belief.

The online portal guides users to provide information so that we can properly assess their concerns. Automated correspondence is sent to everyone who uses the portal, including a copy of their complaint or concern and advice that they will be contacted by a member of the AHPRA team within four days.

The portal is supported by website content about the way AHPRA manages complaints or concerns about medical practitioners and students. We learned from our consultations that the term ‘notification’ is not commonly understood, so instead in the portal and on the website we use the term ‘complaint or concern’ instead of ‘notification’.

We will improve the portal over time based on user feedback. 

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Local insights, National Scheme: State and territory summaries published

Individual annual report summaries for each state and territory, offering insights into how the National Scheme is operating in each jurisdiction, have now been published.

Based on the AHPRA and National Boards annual report for 2015/16, the summaries are available online on AHPRA’s website.

Information includes data on applications for registration by profession, outcomes of criminal history checks and segmentation of the registrant base by gender, profession and specialty.

Notifications information includes the number of complaints or concerns received by AHPRA by profession, types of complaint, matters involving immediate action, monitoring and compliance, panels and tribunals, and statutory offence complaints.

To download any or all of the state and territory reports, or to view the main 2015/16 annual report, visit our microsite.
In the coming months, we will publish a summary specific to the medical profession, outlining 2015/16 data.

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Latest quarterly performance reports published

The July to September 2016 quarterly performance reports for AHPRA and the National Boards are now available.

The reports, which are part of an ongoing drive by AHPRA and the National Boards to increase their accountability and transparency, include data specific to each state and territory.

Each report covers AHPRA and the National Boards’ main areas of activity, including:

  • managing applications for registration as a health practitioner
  • managing notifications about the health, performance and conduct of registered health practitioners and offences against the National Law, and
  • monitoring health practitioners and students with restrictions on their registration.

The reports are available on the AHPRA Statistics page.

To provide feedback on the reports please email: reportingfeedback@ahpra.gov.au.  

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News and alerts

Call for applications from medical practitioners and community members to fill vacancies on state and territory medical boards

Applications are now sought from medical practitioners and community members to fill vacancies on the following state and territory medical boards:

  • Australian Capital Territory Board
  • New South Wales Board
  • Northern Territory Board
  • South Australian Board
  • Tasmanian Board
  • Victorian Board

Applications close 20 March 2017. New members’ appointments are due to begin in July or August 2017. For further information, read the call for applications on our website. 

Review of National Scheme accreditation systems

Following recommendations in the final report of the independent review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professionals, Australian health ministers have requested an independent review of accreditation systems under the National Scheme.

Professor Michael Woods has been appointed to carry out the review of accreditation systems. Professor Woods is Professor of Health Economics in the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation at the University of Technology Sydney.

The terms of reference for this review include:

  • cost effectiveness of the regime for delivering the accreditation functions
  • governance structures including reporting arrangements
  • opportunities for the streamlining of accreditation including consideration of the other educational accreditation processes
  • the extent to which accreditation arrangements support educational innovation, and
  • opportunities for increasing consistency and collaboration across professions.

The report of the review is due at the end of 2017. More information is available on the COAG Health Council webpage. 

Report on Queensland OHO inquiry

The Queensland Government’s Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee has released its report following the inquiry into the performance of the Health Ombudsman's functions pursuant to section 179 of the Health Ombudsman Act 2013.

The committee made a number of recommendations about information sharing between the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO), AHPRA and the National Boards.

We welcome the committee’s recommendations, including that:

  • the Queensland Government investigate the merits of amending the Health Ombudsman Act 2013 to introduce a joint consideration process for health service complaints between the OHO and AHPRA and the National Boards
  • the Queensland Government consider options for ensuring that potentially serious professional misconduct matters, which may also raise issues about a health practitioner’s health or performance, are able to be dealt with as a whole, rather than being split between the OHO and AHPRA and the National Boards
  • the OHO, AHPRA and the National Boards produce a joint plan, which identifies the information needs of all parties and any barriers to the sharing of information, and sets out an agreed approach for resolving any data issues that prevent the production of nationally consistent data about health service complaints, and
  • the Queensland Government consider whether to introduce legislation to make the Health Ombudsman’s suggested amendments to the Health Ombudsman Act 2013 and the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

The report is available on the Queensland Parliament 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.

More information

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 newsletters@ahpra.gov.au.

For registration enquiries or contact detail changes, call the AHPRA customer service team on 1300 419 495 (from within Australia).

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Page reviewed 27/02/2017