July 2018

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair's message

The Medical Board of Australia has listened to your feedback and decided not to make direct links to published court and tribunal decisions on the public register when there has been no adverse finding against the doctor. There will continue to be links to serious disciplinary decisions by courts and tribunals from an individual doctor’s entry on the public register, only when an adverse finding against the doctor has been made.

Earlier this year, the Board decided to introduce links to public tribunal decisions, in the interests of transparency and on the recommendation of the Chaperone Review. It has changed its position after listening to advice from many doctors and other stakeholders that this was not fair when no adverse finding had been made about the doctor.

The Board has removed links to tribunal decisions in which there was no adverse finding about the doctor that had been published on the register since March this year.

The only cases the Board refers to tribunals involve the most serious allegations about registered medical practitioners. These matters pose significant risk to patients. In 2017/18, there were about 100 tribunal hearings about doctors in Australia. This is a very small proportion of the roughly 6,000 complaints (notifications) made to regulators about doctors in Australia each year. Of these, around 75 per cent lead to no further regulatory action and the rest involve cautions or restrictions on registration aimed at protecting the public and managing risk to patients.

You can find out more about what is published on the register of practitioners on AHPRA’s website.

Dr Joanna Flynn AM
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Consultation

Good medical practice — consultation closing soon

There’s still time to have your say on the changes we are proposing to Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia before the consultation closes in early August. We’re keen to know what you think about our suggested revisions, including clearer expectations about electronic medical record keeping and active planning for career transitions, especially by older doctors.

So far, you have given us helpful feedback about our proposed guidance on discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment and vexatious complaints, and pointed out other sections where we need to be clearer about what we mean.

Read more about the changes we are proposing to Good medical practice in the consultation paper on the Board’s website under Current consultations. The Board is keen to hear from practitioners, stakeholders and the community.

Please email written submissions to medboardconsultation@ahpra.gov.au, marked: ‘Public consultation on Good medical practice’.

The consultation closes on 3 August 2018.

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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Closing the gap

Our commitment to improving Indigenous health outcomes

The National Scheme has made a landmark commitment to helping achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031.

Nearly 40 health organisations have signed the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme Statement of Intent, including leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, AHPRA, all National Boards, all accreditation authorities and other entities.

AHPRA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group is leading this work, in close partnership with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and experts.

The group shares a commitment to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have access to health services that are culturally safe and free from racism so that they can enjoy a healthy life, equal to that of other Australians, enriched by a strong living culture, dignity and justice.

To help achieve this, the group is focusing on:

  • a culturally safe health workforce supported by nationally consistent standards, codes and guidelines across all professions in the National Scheme
  • using our leadership and influence to achieve reciprocal goals
  • increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ participation in the registered health workforce
  • greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to culturally safe services of health professions regulated under the National Scheme, and
  • increased participation across all levels of the National Scheme.

More information is available in the news item, the Statement of Intent and AHPRA’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

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Advertising

Selectively editing reviews or testimonials may break the law

AHPRA has issued more guidance for advertisers to make it clearer that selectively editing reviews is not acceptable.

Under the National Law1, testimonials about clinical care are not permitted, but reviews about non-clinical aspects of care are allowed.

In a recent case, an advertiser removed all negative comments from patients’ reviews. This selective editing changed the meaning of the reviews and had the potential to mislead the public. AHPRA’s new guidance makes it clear this is not acceptable and outlines the rules about editing or moderating reviews. It is misleading to:

  • edit a review that is negative to make it positive, as this falsely presents the feedback
  • edit a review that has a mix of negative and positive comments so that the published review only has positive comments, as this falsely implies that the reviewer only had positive feedback, or
  • edit a review so that it no longer accurately reflects all the reviewer’s feedback and presents an inaccurate or false impression of the reviewer’s views.

Reviews influence consumers healthcare choices so advertisers must make sure reviews are genuine and not misleading.

The way advertisers moderate and publish reviews must comply with the National Law and the Australian Consumer Law.

The updated testimonial tool is available in the Advertising resources section on the AHPRA website.

For more information, access the Advertising resources on the AHPRA website.


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

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Alerts

Do you want to be on the ACT medical board?

Applications are invited from medical practitioners to fill a vacancy on the Australian Capital Territory medical board.

Applications close 24 August 2018. Further information is available on the Statutory appointments page.

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Alert for medical students: English language standard

Communicating effectively is a cornerstone of good medical practice and a requirement for medical registration in Australia.

Medical students need to have provisional registration before they can practise medicine. To be granted provisional registration, they must meet the requirements of the Board’s English language skills registration standard. AHPRA has sent information out to support medical students who are about to graduate with a reminder about what the English language skills standard requires.

Final year medical students who did not complete at least two years of secondary school taught and assessed solely in English in a recognised country, must check to see how they will meet the standard. For some students this may include sitting an English language test ‒ even if they’ve studied medicine in Australia.

We have published a news item on the Board’s website and are using social media to help get the message out.

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ACCC resources for patients on home care packages

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published resources for consumers accessing home care packages, to help them understand and exercise their rights. The Home Care Packages Program helps older Australians with complex care needs to live independently in their own homes by providing support services like personal care and clinical care.

Because the packages are provided by private providers, consumer protection laws apply. The ACCC launched the Choose your care. Use your rights campaign to support consumers when choosing their home care provider.

The Board is letting doctors know about the ACCC resources, so you can tell your patients where to get help if they need it, and where to make a complaint if they have concerns about issues like pressure selling tactics, complex contracts, poor goods or services, or other concerns.

If you have patients who have or who are considering home care, you can direct them to the ACCC resources.

Information about government funding for home care packages is available on the Commonwealth government’s My Aged Care website for consumers and for health professionals.

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Recent court decision

Fake doctor jailed after criminal offences and false claims

A Victorian court has jailed Raffaele Di Paolo for a range of indictable offences and fined him for claiming to be a specialist medical practitioner when he had never been registered and had never completed a medical degree.  

The court found Mr Di Paolo had misled patients and broken the law by using the terms ‘gynaecologist’ or ‘obstetrician’ and the initials MD after his name. It is an offence under the National Law to purport to be a registered health practitioner if you are not.

AHPRA acted after receiving a notification from the Health Services Commissioner in Victoria about Mr Di Paolo and his conduct during a series of consultations with patients.

The County Court of Victoria sentenced Mr Di Paolo to nine years and six months' jail and placed him on the sex offender register for life for the criminal conviction. AHPRA’s prosecution took place alongside a criminal prosecution by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He was convicted and fined $5,000 and ordered to pay costs for offences under the National Law.

Read more in the media release: Successful prosecution of fake doctor ‘a serious signal to others’.

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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. This case was published recently:

  • the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded, suspended and imposed conditions on a general practitioner for inappropriate treatment and prescribing (including schedule 8 drugs) (Medical Board of Australia v Griffiths).

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Publication of panel, court and tribunal decisions

AHPRA, on behalf of the 14 National Boards, publishes a record of panel, court and tribunal decisions about registered 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 to not 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 AHPRA's website on the Make a complaint 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 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 1/08/2018