Medical Board of Australia - December 2021

December 2021

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair’s message 

We’ve commissioned an independent review of patient safety issues in the cosmetic sector. We’re concerned that the current system of checks and balances is not keeping patients safe in a rapidly changing and entrepreneurial part of our profession. The review will report back in mid-2022 and we look forward to its recommendations. 

As 2021 closes, thank you for the contribution you have made to Australia’s healthcare system and your patients during this very challenging year. The Board is so proud of the leadership and commitment shown by medical practitioners across Australia. We wish you and yours a safe and restful festive season.

Dr Anne Tonkin
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Medical Board of Australia news

Cosmetic surgery

Independent review into patient safety in cosmetic practice

We’ve commissioned an independent review of patient safety issues in the cosmetic sector, including how to strengthen risk-based regulation of practitioners in this increasingly entrepreneurial part of the profession.

Some worrying features of the cosmetic industry set it apart from conventional medical practice, including corporate business models which are alleged to place profit over patient safety, no medical need for cosmetic procedures, limited factual information for consumers and exponential growth in social media that emphasises benefits and downplays risks.

We are also concerned there may be a weak safety and reporting culture in cosmetic surgery. While it’s a good thing that there are doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are picking up the pieces when cosmetic procedures go wrong, we need to understand why these practitioners are not always sharing their patient safety concerns with us in a timely way.

The independent review will ensure that the specific regulatory responsibilities of Ahpra and National Boards are effectively protecting the public, in our part of the system of checks and balances in place for cosmetic surgery. State and territory health authorities have a major regulatory role in licensing facilities.

The review will:

  • assess communication and cooperation between agencies involved in the current system of checks and balances in cosmetic surgery
  • examine how to strengthen risk-based regulation of practitioners in the industry
  • ensure our regulatory approach keeps pace with rapid changes in the cosmetic surgery industry, and
  • recommend actions to better protect the public.

The review will be led by outgoing Queensland Health Ombudsman, Andrew Brown.

Public consultation will begin in early 2022.

Read more, including the review’s Terms of reference, in the news item on the Medical Board website.

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Annual report published 

2020/2021 annual report now available

The 2020/21 annual report of Ahpra and the national health practitioner boards is published.

The annual report is a comprehensive record of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the 12 months to 30 June 2021. In another year dominated by the challenges of COVID-19, regulation continued and adapted to the impacts of the pandemic.

A medicine-specific snapshot and data tables are also published.

Highlights include:

  • More health practitioners: There are 825,720 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions.
  • More registered doctors: Medical practitioners made up 16% of all health practitioners registered nationally (129,066 individual registered medical practitioners in 2020/21; up from 125,641 in 2019/20).
  • Complaints about medical practitioners: There were 5,516 notifications to Ahpra about medical practitioners. There were 7,379 registered medical practitioners Australia-wide who had notifications made about them (including to Ahpra, the Health Professional Councils Authority (NSW) and the Office of the Health Ombudsman (Queensland)).
  • Of 5,445 medical matters closed in 2020/21, 29% led to further regulatory action. In 6.1% of closed matters, the Medical Board accepted an undertaking from the practitioner or imposed conditions on the practitioner’s registration; 3.7% received a caution or reprimand; 0.4% - registration was surrendered, suspended or cancelled.
  • In 71% of matters, the Board took no further regulatory action: The Board takes no further action when, based on the available information, there is no risk to the public that needs to be managed.
  • Referrals to an adjudication body: The Board refers the most serious allegations to tribunals. In 2020/21, 48 matters were decided by a tribunal and 9 matters were decided by a panel.
  • 375 mandatory notifications were made about doctors: 164 were about professional standards.
  • Criminal offences by medical practitioners: 104 new complaints were made this year relating to possible criminal offences by medical practitioners. Almost 77% of these related to title and practice protection and 21% to advertising breaches.
  • Immediate action was taken 195 times about doctors: The Board takes immediate action to restrict or suspend the registration of a medical practitioner as an interim measure to protect the public while notifications are being investigated.

The 2020/21 annual report, along with supplementary tables that provide data about registrations, notifications, criminal offence complaints, tribunals and appeals, and monitoring and compliance, is available on the annual report page of the Ahpra website.

The medicine-specific snapshot and data tables are on the Medical Board website.

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Interns and COVID-19

Changes to requirements for 2022 interns affected by COVID-19 outbreaks

In 2022, interns directly affected by COVID-19 will be eligible for the same Board-approved changes to internships that applied in 2021.

During this year, the Board reviewed requirements for 2021 interns whose rotations were interrupted by COVID-19 related leave or redeployment.

Acknowledging that COVID-19 outbreaks are likely to continue to cause workforce pressures in 2022, the Board has extended the 2021 changes so they apply to 2022 interns who are directly affected by COVID-19.

The Board expects that interns will complete the core terms and 47 weeks accredited service unless they:

  • had to take genuine COVID-19 related leave (for COVID-19 illness or to isolate), and/or
  • have been redeployed by their health service to meet COVID-19 related workforce needs.
  1. 2022 interns who have been directly affected by COVID-19 (had to take COVID-related leave):
    1. must complete at least 40 weeks full-time equivalent supervised service (a reduction of up to seven weeks from the standard 47 weeks required)
    2. can gain their clinical experience in accredited and non-accredited positions
    3. do not have to meet the requirement for the usual rotations of medicine, surgery and emergency medical care. The Board will accept clinical experience in any supervised rotations.

    The intern will need to provide details of when the leave was taken and explain the reasons.

  2. 2022 interns who have been redeployed as a result of COVID-19:
    1. must complete at least 47 weeks full-time equivalent service
    2. can gain their clinical experience in accredited and non-accredited positions
    3. do not have to meet the requirement for the usual rotations of medicine, surgery and emergency medical care. The Board will accept clinical experience in any supervised rotations.

    The Board may request confirmation from the employing health service that the redeployment was the result of COVID-19.

The Board may request confirmation from the employing health service that the redeployment was the result of COVID-19.

For the purpose of granting general registration at the end of the intern year, the Board will continue to accept a report from the Director of Medical Services, Director of Training or another person authorised to sign off intern reports, confirming that each intern has performed satisfactorily during the intern year.

The revised requirements are published in a news item on the Board’s website and there are also FAQs on the COVID-19 updates page.

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CPD homes

Criteria for CPD homes in progress

Continuing professional development (CPD) is already a registration requirement for all registered medical practitioners. When revised CPD arrangements take effect, all doctors will need to have a CPD home. (You can read more about changes to CPD, and CPD homes on the Board’s website.)

The Board and the Australian Medical Council (AMC) are now finalising the criteria and process for organisations to apply to become a CPD home.

If your organisation is interested in becoming a CPD home and would like to be kept informed about the expression of interest process, please email performanceframework@ahpra.gov.au so we can keep you updated.

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Medical Board vacancies

Are you interested in joining the Tasmanian Medical Board?

Applications will open on the 18 December 2021 for a registered medical practitioner to fill a vacancy on the Tasmanian Medical Board.

Applications close 23 January 2022. Information will be available from 18 December 2021 on Ahpra’s Statutory appointments page.

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News and alerts

Social research results published

We’ve published results of social research aimed at helping us understand what people think about us and how they understand our work.

Understanding what the community and regulated health professions think and feel about us, particularly in areas of understanding, confidence and trust, informs how we engage with our stakeholders and identifies where we need to improve.

The results are from an anonymous survey conducted in late 2020 of a random sample of health practitioners and the community across Australia. There were more than 10,200 responses from practitioners and 2,000+ from the broader community.

The survey is part of a social research project managed by an independent consultant and follows a similar survey conducted in previous years. We surveyed practitioners again in 2021 with results to be released in 2022.

The results are available on the Medical Board website.

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Ahpra and the Medical Board welcome consultation on surgeon title

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the Medical Board welcome the announcement by Health Ministers to review the use of the title ‘surgeon’.

Currently, any registered health practitioner can use the title ‘surgeon’ as it is not protected under the National Law.

Health ministers, as part of a collaborative nationwide consultation, are seeking feedback from the public about whether the current framework should be changed or if other options should be considered to help the public better understand medical practitioner qualifications.

Public consultation material, including FAQs, and how organisations, individual practitioners and members of the public can make submissions, are available on the Engage Victoria website. The consultation opens soon, and submissions will be accepted until April 2022.

Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia’s recently announced independent review into cosmetic surgery may help inform a submission to Health Ministers’ consultation.

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Medical Council of NSW podcast – Burnout: are you at risk – and what you can do about it

The Medical Council of New South Wales has published a podcast, Burnout: are you at risk – and what you can do about it. In this podcast, host Dr Martine Walker is joined by Professor Leanne Rowe and Dr Peter Baldwin to discuss how doctors can manage burnout and maintain good mental health. They offer valuable insights and practical guidance on how to handle the pressures of our roles.

The podcast is available on Whooshkaa.

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Message from Services Australia: Software updates required to maintain access to digital channels

Services Australia is upgrading its digital health and aged care channels. These upgrades will ensure that patient and provider information is secure, now and into the future.

To continue accessing the channels below, you’ll need to be using web service-compatible software by 13 March 2022:

  • Medicare Online
  • Australian Immunisation Register
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • ECLIPSE
  • PBS Online
  • Aged Care Online

Services Australia is also strengthening its authentication process by replacing Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) site certificates with Provider Digital Access (PRODA) for organisations. 

PRODA will help you do your electronic business with Services Australia securely.

If you use an alternative channel for your claims and don’t use software, you don’t need to do anything. These upgrades won’t affect you.

More information about PRODA is on the Services Australia website PRODA page.

What you need to do

Your software developer will have information on their transition and upgrade plans for your site. If you haven’t heard from them, contact them now and ask:

  • when will your web services-compatible software be available, and
  • if you will need to register your organisation in PRODA to authenticate to Medicare Online/ECLIPSE web services.*

*Users of PBS Online and Aged Care must register their organisation in PRODA to authenticate to their web services-enabled software.

If you use PBS Online, your software developer will contact you when more information is available.

It is important that you understand these changes, as they will affect your business if you use software to submit claims and data to Services Australia.

More information is available on the Services Australia website digital channels page.

If you have questions, email servicesaustralia.A2WS@servicesaustralia.gov.au.

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Medical regulation at work

Latest tribunal decisions published 

There are important lessons in tribunal decisions about registered medical practitioners. The Medical Board of Australia refers the most serious concerns about medical practitioners to tribunals in each state and territory. This decision was published recently:

  • the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has cancelled a medical practitioner’s registration and disqualified him from reapplying for eight years for downloading and possessing child exploitation material (Medical Board of Australia v Yu).

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Publication of panel, court and tribunal decisions 

Ahpra, on behalf of the 15 National Boards, publishes a record of panel, court and tribunal decisions about registered health practitioners. 

When investigating a notification, the 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 record of panel hearing decisions made since July 2010. Practitioners’ names are not published, consistent with the National Law. 

Summaries of tribunal and court cases are published on the Court and tribunal decisions page of the Ahpra website. The Board and Ahpra sometimes choose not to publish summaries, for example about cases involving practitioners with impairment.

In New South Wales and Queensland, different arrangements are in place. More information is available on Aphra’s website on the Concerned about a health practitioner? page.

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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 23/06/2022