September 2017

Update Medical Board of Australia

Latest tribunal decisions

Recent decisions have been published online

There are important lessons for registered medical practitioners from tribunal decisions. The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) refers the most serious concerns about medical practitioners to tribunals in each state and territory. Cases published recently have included:

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 Law1, 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 Court and 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 on the Make a complaint page.


1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory

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Registration renewal for 2017-18

Registration is due now

Registration renewal for medical practitioners with general, specialist and non-practising registration is due on 30 September 2017.

If you haven’t already renewed your registration, do it before 30 September if you want to continue to practise. Online renewal is quick and easy.

There is a late fee for renewal applications received in October.

To renew, follow the prompts in the reminders AHPRA has sent you by email or mail.

By law, if you apply to renew on time, you can practise medicine while we process your application. If you apply to renew on time or during the late renewal period, you can still practise medicine even if:

  • we are still processing your application to renew, and
  • the registration expiry date displayed on the register has passed.

Even if the registration expiry date displayed has passed, the national register will continue to confirm that you are registered.

Under the National Law, practitioners who do not apply to renew their registration within one month of their registration expiry date must be removed from the Register of Medical Practitioners. For medical practitioners, this will happen on 1 November. Their registration will lapse and they will not be able to practise medicine in Australia until a new application for registration is approved. Practitioners whose registration has lapsed can make a fast-track application, but they cannot practise until their application is processed and the national register is updated. This can take time.

Fees, tips and other information

The registration fee for medical practitioners for 2017/18 is $742. The fee schedule is available on the fees page.

A video and ‘Tips for renewing online’ are available for medical practitioners on the Registration Renewal page.

New requirements: Recency of practice and Continuing professional development

New recency of practice and continuing professional development (CPD) requirements took effect on 1 October 2016. When applying to renew this year, you must make a declaration about your compliance with these requirements. Read more in last month’s Update.

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Improving complaints management

Taking less time, seeking more clinical advice

The Board and AHPRA are continuing their work to improve the notifications process. Improving timeliness and getting clinical advice early in the notifications process are two immediate priorities.

We are establishing two ‘triage committees’ – one for the eastern states and one for the western states – made up of rotating members of state and territory boards. This will shorten assessment times, particularly for low risk matters, improve consistency and keep local input into decision-making.

We have also appointed 14 new medical clinical advisers who will join the AHPRA team to provide clinical advice on the assessment and management of notifications about medical practitioners. Having on-staff advisers will ensure there is early and regular clinical input to the management of concerns about practitioners’ performance. The part time clinical advisers are from a range of specialties – including general practice, emergency medicine, anaesthesia, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, psychiatry and surgery.

Thanks to everyone who applied in response to our article in our June newsletter, when we called for practitioners looking for a new challenge.

We have also been seeking feedback from both notifiers and practitioners, to improve how we handle notifications. Through surveys and interviews, we are hearing from the people who have recently been involved in a notification to help us understand which parts of the process cause the most stress, listen to their suggestions for improvement and learn how we can do better, especially in our communications and timeliness.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health strategy

Working together to support better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

National Boards, AHPRA and accreditation authorities have appointed two co-chairs to lead the development of the National Scheme’s first ever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health strategy.

The strategy aims to support better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Associate Professor Gregory Phillips, CEO of ABSTARR Consulting and Dr Joanna Flynn AM, Chair of the Medical Board of Australia will jointly chair the strategy group, which involves a partnership between National Boards, AHPRA, accreditation authorities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector leaders and organisations. Members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia will work closely with the group in the implementation of the strategy.

The vision of the strategy is ‘Patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s health system is the norm, as defined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.

The strategy aims to ensure patient safety and will focus on:

  • building a culturally safe registered health workforce and being leaders in achieving workforce outcomes to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the registered health workforce
  • supporting greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to the National Scheme by:
    • understanding how indigenous communities access the scheme, and
    • coordinating a consistent approach across the National Scheme to building access and participation.

There are more than 5,000 registered health practitioners who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, which is 0.8 per cent of the total registered health workforce.

Read more about the co-chairs in the news item.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group publish communiqués of its work. These are available on the Advisory group page of the AHPRA website.

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Reprimands

Removing reprimands from the national register

Individual registered medical practitioners can be reprimanded after a regulatory process. A reprimand is a chastisement for conduct or a formal rebuke. Under the National Law, reprimands are published on the national register.

All National Boards have now adopted a policy that determines when and in what circumstances a reprimand will be removed from the register.

Reprimands on a practitioner’s registration can be imposed under the National Law by a performance or professional standards panel, professional standards committee (New South Wales), and a relevant tribunal or court.

Under the policy, a reprimand imposed under the National Law will be removed from the national register on the publication end date set by the relevant panel, committee, court or tribunal. When a publication end date has not been set or when the reprimand was imposed under previous legislation, the reprimand will be removed no earlier than five years from the date of initial publication. This is subject to:

  • the practitioner making an application for removal of the reprimand
  • no ‘relevant event’ having occurred in the five-year period of publication of the reprimand, and
  • if the reprimand was imposed under previous legislation, legal advice confirming the power to remove a reprimand under that legislation.

A ‘relevant event’ is any health, performance or conduct notification, action taken against the practitioner in relation to an adverse disclosure on renewal of registration, new information returned on a criminal history check or a confirmed breach of restrictions. It also includes when action has been taken against a practitioner regarding their conduct, health or performance. New notifications, irrespective of whether action was taken, will also be taken into account if an application for removal of a reprimand is received after the five-year period of publication.

The policy also applies to the removal of reprimands imposed under previous legislation, which will be considered on an individual basis, consistent with removal powers under that legislation.

The policy will take effect from 2 October 2017 and will be reviewed annually. An application form to remove a reprimand from the national register will be published under Common forms on the AHPRA website. 

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Quarterly registration data released.

Latest profession–specific statistics released

The Board publishes statistics each quarter profiling the 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 Board’s website under Statistics on the News page.

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News and alerts

Amendments to the National Law

Amendments to the National Law have been passed by the Queensland Parliament and will apply in all states and territories except Western Australia and South Australia, where additional legislative processes are required. The amendments include:

  • Introducing national regulation for paramedics: Establishing the Paramedicine Board of Australia, with national registration of paramedics expected to start in the second half of 2018.

  • Recognising nursing and midwifery as separate professions: The National Law will be updated to recognise the two professions as separate. There is no plan to change the structure of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia or for how nurses and midwives will interact with the Board.

  • Changes to strengthen the management of complaints (notifications) and disciplinary enforcement powers of AHPRA and National Boards, including:

    • Provision of practice information: A National Board may require a health practitioner to provide details of their practice arrangements, regardless of how they are engaged to practise. This will mean health practitioners who practise in multiple locations or under different employment, contractual or voluntary arrangements will be required under law to provide this information to their National Board when asked to do so.

    • Public interest grounds for immediate action: Broadening the grounds for which a National Board may take immediate action against a health practitioner or student if it reasonably believes it is in the public interest.

    • Extension of prohibition order powers: A responsible tribunal may issue a prohibition order to prohibit a person from providing any type of health service or using any protected or specified title. A breach of a prohibition order in any state or territory will also become an offence with a maximum penalty of $30,000.

    • Communication with notifiers: This change will improve communication for people who make a complaint or report a concern to AHPRA and National Boards (notifiers) about a registered health practitioner’s health, performance or conduct. National Boards will now have the discretion to inform notifiers of a greater range of actions taken by the National Board in response to their complaint or concern and the reasons for their actions.

  • Additional powers for the COAG Health Council (formerly operating as the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council) to change the structure of National Boards: This means that health ministers may make changes to the structure and composition of the National Boards by regulation following consultation. There are no current proposals to change the structure of National Boards.

Read more in the news item

Draft report from the independent review of accreditation systems

The draft report of the Accreditation Systems Review has been published, with a short consultation period closing on 16 October 2017.

Australian Health Ministers commissioned a review of accreditation systems under the National Scheme reflecting recommendations from the Independent Review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professionals.

The draft report outlines reform options aimed at streamlining accreditation processes and enhancing governance structures within the National Scheme. The independent reviewer, Professor Michael Woods, says the review recommends changes to increase cost-effectiveness through consistency and collaboration across professions and delivery of an educational foundation for a health workforce capable of responding to the evolving needs of the community.

The draft report is available on the COAG Health Council website. The final report is due to be delivered to Health Ministers in November 2017. 

Have your say on changes to Victorian notifiable conditions

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (the department) is proposing changes to the prescribed notifiable conditions listed in the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations.

Medical practitioners and laboratories in a range of settings - including public and private hospitals, primary and community health, private practice and commercial pathology services - are required to notify specific cases of infectious disease and other medical conditions to the department.

The proposed changes aim to streamline reporting, which allows the department to control public health risks, minimise the spread of disease and monitor disease patterns.

The department is seeking feedback on the proposed changes. The consultation is open until 6 October 2017. Visit the Engage Victoria website for more information.

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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 28/09/2017