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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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:
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.
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:
Who we consulted with
During the consultation we:
In addition, the Medical Journal of Australia published a Perspective from Medical Board Chair, Dr Joanna Flynn on revalidation, along with a podcast.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The reports are available on the AHPRA Statistics page.
To provide feedback on the reports please email: email@example.com.
Applications are now sought from medical practitioners and community members to fill vacancies on the following state and territory medical boards:
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.
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:
The report of the review is due at the end of 2017. More information is available on the COAG Health Council webpage.
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 report is available on the Queensland Parliament webpage.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
For registration enquiries or contact detail changes, call the AHPRA customer service team on 1300 419 495 (from within Australia).