February 2021

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair’s message 

The feedback you give us in consultations helps keep regulation clear, effective and proportionate. The Board regularly seeks feedback from the profession and the community on regulatory policies and standards. Sometimes the issues we consult on have a narrower audience, like the endorsement for acupuncture consultation we are launching this month. Other times, we want to know what you think about issues that apply to most doctors. You can read more in this month’s Update about how feedback from the profession and the community shaped the Board’s thinking on how best to safeguard patients seeking care from medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments.

Dr Anne Tonkin
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Medical Board of Australia news

Return to normal for CPD and interns in 2021

COVID-19 changes to registration are over

Continuing professional development (CPD) and intern registration requirements will return to pre-COVID normal in 2021. All registered medical practitioners will need to comply with the Board’s CPD registration standard and all 2021 interns will need to complete all the rotations and service requirements set out in the Registration standard: Granting general registration as a medical practitioner to Australian and New Zealand medical graduates on completion of intern training

We will keep monitoring the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and may review arrangements if there are further waves of infection that have significant impacts on practice. 

CPD

The Board believes that participation in CPD is central to good medical practice. It is also aware that ‘COVID-normal’ arrangements are now well established across the health sector, including creative COVID-safe CPD options. Specialist colleges did very well in adapting their CPD programs so doctors could continue their professional development throughout 2020.

Given the importance of CPD and the fact that COVID restrictions are expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future, the Board has decided to end the variation to some CPD requirements that were introduced in March 2020 in response to the pandemic.

In 2021, all registered medical practitioners need to meet the requirements set out in the Board’s CPD registration standard. You can read more about maintaining professional performance in section 9 of Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia.

Interns

In 2021, intern training requirements set out in the Registration standard: Granting general registration as a medical practitioner to Australian and New Zealand medical graduates on completion of intern training apply. The standard specifies that: 

1. Interns are required to perform satisfactorily under supervision in the following terms: 

  • a term of at least 8 weeks that provides experience in emergency medical care 
  • a term of at least 10 weeks that provides experience in medicine 
  • a term of at least 10 weeks that provides experience in surgery 
  • a range of other approved terms to make up 12 months (minimum of 47 weeks full time equivalent service) 

2. Terms must be accredited against approved accreditation standards for intern training. 

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Complementary medicine

Board responds to consultation on complementary medicine 

The Medical Board will not change the existing professional standards framework in relation to patients seeking care from medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments.

The Board has decided that it will not issue guidelines on ‘complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments’ and will continue to rely on the existing standards framework set out in Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia. The code includes guidance on patient assessment, basing clinical decisions on the best available information and considering the balance of benefit and harm, and informed consent.

The Board received more than 13,000 submissions to its consultation on options for clearer regulation of medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments.

The consultation, open for six months in 2019, sought feedback about whether additional safeguards were needed for patients receiving care from medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments. It looked at options to best protect patients and minimise the risk of harm to them, without stifling innovation, making a judgement about specific clinical practices or limiting patients’ right to choose their healthcare.

The feedback from the consultation made it clear that there was no simple equation linking areas of practice with risk to patients, and that high-risk practice is not confined to one area of practice.

We recognise that the solution we had proposed did not match the problem we were trying to solve. Also, the labels we used – complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments – were not helpful in defining the level of risk posed to patients.

The persisting issue of patients being offered high risk treatments that do not have an evidence base of safety and efficacy is not limited to complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments. As well, the problem of vulnerable patients not being provided with the information they would need to give genuinely informed consent is not limited to a specific area of practice. 

The Board will continue to refine its risk-based regulatory approach, so that regulatory safeguards match risk to patients across all areas of practice. This work will not be limited to specific areas of practice and will be developed over time. 

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Quarterly registration data

Latest registration data published

The Board publishes data each quarter on the medical profession. Data are broken down by state and territory, registration type and for specialists, by specialty and field of specialty.

The latest data are available on our website under Statistics on the News page.

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Accreditation

Providing high quality education and training

The Board has approved the following:

Specialist medical college program of study

Provider  Program  Approved  Expiry 
College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand Fellowship of College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand 16 December 2020 31 March 2023
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians Fellowship of The Royal Australasian College of Physicians 16 December 2020 31 March 2025

Medical school program of study

Provider  Program  Approved  Expiry 
University of Adelaide Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery
Six-year program
16 December 2020 31 March 2023

Intern training accreditation authority

Authority  Approved  Expiry 
South Australian Medical Education and Training Health Advisory Council 16 December 2020 31 March 2023

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Medical Board vacancies

Do you want to join the National Board?

Applications are sought from registered medical practitioners and members of the community to fill the following vacancies on the Medical Board of Australia (the National Board):

  • eight medical practitioner members (from the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia)
  • the Chair’s position
  • four community members.

Applications close 7 March 2021.

More information is available on Ahpra’s Statutory appointments page.

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Consultation

Board consults on a revised registration standard for endorsement of registration for acupuncture

Tell us what you think about proposed changes to the registration standard for endorsement of registration for acupuncture.

Medical practitioners who want to use the protected title ‘acupuncturist’ must have their registration endorsed for acupuncture by the Medical Board of Australia, or also be registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia.

The Medical Board’s registration standard for Endorsement of registration for acupuncture for registered medical practitioners defines the requirements for granting endorsement of registration for acupuncture to medical practitioners. 

The registration standard is due for review and the Board is inviting feedback on proposed changes to the standard. We are not proposing any additional requirements for granting endorsement of registration and the changes proposed are minor and include:

  • editorial changes to improve readability
  • aligning the requirements for CPD in acupuncture to the Board’s registration standard for CPD
  • removing outdated information about grandfathering arrangements. 

Read more about these changes in the consultation paper on the Board’s website under Current consultations. The Board is keen to hear from practitioners, organisations and the community.

Written submissions can be emailed to medboardconsultation@ahpra.gov.au, marked: ‘Consultation on draft revised standard for acupuncture endorsement’.

The consultation closes on 5 April 2021.

Publication of submissions

The Board generally publishes submissions to consultations on its website to encourage discussion and inform the community and stakeholders, unless confidentiality is requested. For more detail, please refer to the section on submissions in the consultation paper.

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News and alerts

Pandemic response sub-register closes soon – apply now if you want to keep practising

The pandemic response sub-register (the sub-register) was established in April last year to provide a potential surge workforce during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was intended to provide a temporary return of additional, trained and suitable health practitioners in case more registered practitioners would be needed quickly to deal with the pandemic.

More than 34,736 practitioners opted to stay on the sub-register from eight professions, including 3,359 medical practitioners. The Medical Board extends its sincere appreciation and thanks to all practitioners on the sub-register for being available to support Australia’s healthcare system and the health workforce during this very trying time.

While responding to COVID-19 is still an important focus for the Australian community and medical practitioners will continue to play a vital role in administering the vaccine when available, the need for the temporary sub-register has reduced. Practitioners on the sub-register who would like to continue to be available to practise after it closes from April 2021 can now apply for registration through a transition pathway.

The sub-register will close on 5 April 2021 for medical practitioners. 

Practitioners who are on the sub-register do not need to do anything to remove themselves from the sub-register as it will automatically close. 

Eligible practitioners who used to have non-practising registration before going on the sub-register will be automatically returned to non-practising registration in April 2021. 

Applying for registration through a transition pathway

Practitioners on the sub-register who would like to continue to practise after it closes can apply for registration through a transition pathway. This also applies to those who would like to be available for any roles as part of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

There is no application fee and a reduced registration fee for the professions where the remaining period of new registration will be less than 12 months. 

Applicants still need to meet the Medical Board’s registration standards including criminal history, English language and recency of practice (time spent practising while on the sub-register can count towards the recency of practice requirements). 

If you would like to apply for registration through this pathway, you must do so before 11.59 pm on 5 April. If you miss the deadline, you will no longer hold registration and will need to apply through the standard registration process.

For more information, see the pandemic response sub-register FAQs.

Cosmetic doctor fined $20,000 for practising after registration lapsed

A Victorian medical practitioner who continued to practise after failing to renew his registration was fined $20,000 after being charged by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Read more in the news item on the Board’s website.

Message for prescribers from the Commonwealth: active ingredient prescribing

Under Commonwealth rules most Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS (RPBS) prescriptions must include active ingredient name(s). This applies to computer generated prescriptions, and prescriptions for medicines with up to three active ingredients. Handwritten prescriptions are excluded.

Prescribers can still choose a specific brand of medicine for their patient and can include a brand name on the prescription whenever clinically necessary for treatment. When a brand name is included on a prescription, the active ingredient name(s) will appear first.

Prescribing software now incorporates necessary changes to automate the Active Ingredient Prescribing process for prescribers. A new version of your software which meets these requirements should now be available. However, prescribers are encouraged to check completeness of prescriptions before signing and providing to patients.

Clinical support materials to support prescribers to adopt Active Ingredient Prescribing are available on the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website.

What do prescribers need to do? 

Update your prescribing software and use a version that supports Active Ingredient Prescribing.

Please check completeness of your prescriptions before signing and providing to patients.

More information for prescribers is at: 

If you have questions, email AIPrescribing@health.gov.au.

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Medical regulation at work

Latest tribunal decisions have been published online

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

  • the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has cancelled a general practitioner’s registration and disqualified him from applying for registration for six years for professional boundary violations (Medical Board of Australia v Lee)
  • the Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded a general practitioner and disqualified him from applying for re-registration for nine months for inappropriate prescribing of drugs of dependence and failure to provide adequate healthcare (Medical Board of Australia and Lim)
  • the Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded a medical practitioner and imposed conditions on her registration after she failed to comply with conditions to attend for urine drug screening (Medical Board of Australia and Ng)
  • a general practitioner has had his registration suspended and the State Administrative Tribunal in Western Australia has reprimanded him and imposed conditions after he acted inappropriately towards a member of staff at a pharmacy (Medical Board of Australia and Farrier)
  • the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has upheld a decision by the Medical Board of Australia to impose conditions on the registration of a medical practitioner who dismissed a patient’s request for a second opinion (Mahboub v Medical Board of Australia)
  • the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has imposed conditions on the registration of a general practitioner restricting him from performing certain surgical procedures (De Villiers v Medical Board of Australia)
  • the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded a general practitioner, cancelled his registration and disqualified him from applying for registration for three years for excessive prescribing of drugs of dependence and for providing false or misleading evidence (Medical Board of Australia v Vucinic)
  • the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has cancelled a general practitioner’s registration for three years for breaching the conditions on his registration (Medical Board of Australia v Murphy)
  • the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has cancelled a medical practitioner’s registration and disqualified him from applying for registration for 18 months, for arranging a non-registered person to issue prescriptions in the doctor’s name while he was overseas (Medical Board of Australia v Singh)
  • the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded a medical practitioner, cancelled his registration and disqualified him from applying for registration for two years for breaching conditions on his registration (Medical Board of Australia v House)
  • the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia has reprimanded a medical practitioner and disqualified him from applying for registration for three years for his conduct in relation to the treatment of a patient, including inappropriate prescribing of hormones (Medical Board of Australia and Whiteside)

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 a 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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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 Anne Tonkin, 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 23/03/2021