Doctor pleads guilty to practising while unregistered

26 Mar 2021

A South Australian palliative care doctor who continued to practise after failing to renew their registration has pleaded guilty following prosecution by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

The doctor, whose registration lapsed in September 2018 after failing to renew on time, pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court of South Australia to a charge of holding out as a medical practitioner in breach of the National Law.1

Ahpra protects the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified can claim to be registered. Falsely claiming to be a registered health practitioner is a criminal offence under the National Law.

The doctor continued to practise despite no longer holding registration until their registration status was discovered by their employer and they were stood down.

Today, the magistrate sentenced the doctor without recording a conviction. The court imposed a two-year good behaviour bond and ordered costs of $1,210 be paid to Ahpra. As required in South Australia, the doctor was also ordered to pay a compulsory victims of crime levy of $240. If the doctor fails to comply with the conditions of the $5,000 bond they will be brought back to court for conviction and sentence.

Magistrate McLeod commented that it was ‘vitally important’ persons who professed to have professional qualifications, such as doctors, be registered and regulated. In matters, such as the one before the court, a conviction would ordinarily follow, he said.

However, Magistrate McLeod took into account the doctor’s exceptional personal circumstances and concluded that, in this case, a conviction could have ‘disproportionate consequences’.

Medical Board of Australia Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin, said maintaining current registration was a core professional obligation for all registered health practitioners.

‘The public should be confident that when they see a medical practitioner they are being treated by a registered practitioner. All practitioners must be certain that they are registered before treating any patient.'

Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, welcomed the outcome.

‘Public trust in our registered health professions is paramount. I hope this outcome is a strong reminder to other health practitioners about the importance of not practising their profession when not registered.’

The current registration status of all registered health practitioners in Australia is published on the online national register of practitioners. If a person’s name does not appear on the register, they are not registered to practise in a regulated health profession in Australia.

For more information:

• Background: From 1 July 2019 fake practitioners face jail time and hefty fines
• Find out more about how to report an offence.
• For media enquiries: (03) 8708 9200.
• Lodge an online enquiry form.

1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

Page reviewed 26/03/2021