July 2019

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair’s message

 

The Medical Training Survey starts next week and we’re really keen for all doctors in training to have their say. Survey results will build the first comprehensive, national picture of postgraduate medical training across states, territories and medical specialties in Australia. Results will identify current strengths and weaknesses and provide a baseline for ongoing improvements. The survey is safe and confidential to do. More participants lead to better quality data and a strong evidence base for ongoing improvements. If you’re a doctor in training, please tell us what you think about your training. If you work with doctors in training, please encourage them to do the Medical Training Survey. Read more

Dr Anne Tonkin
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Medical Board of Australia news

Medical Training Survey

Medical Training Survey starts 1 August 2019

The first national Medical Training Survey (MTS) opens on 1 August 2019, giving Australia’s more than 30,000 doctors in training the chance to say what they think about medical training in Australia.

The survey runs from 1 August to 30 September and is open to all doctors in training in Australia. It asks questions about training programs and training posts as well as about supervision, access to teaching, workplace environment and culture, and wellbeing.

The questions in the MTS draw on topics and issues covered in existing surveys from colleges, employers and the Australian Medical Association (AMA), which have informed the development of the national survey. You can read the questions and find out more on the medical training survey website.

Doctors in training have been calling for a national survey for years. The team effort to develop the MTS has involved doctors in training, specialist colleges, employers, educators, the AMA, the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and many others, working closely with the Medical Board and AHPRA to develop the MTS.

Survey results will build the first comprehensive, national picture of the strengths and weaknesses of medical training across states, territories and medical specialties in Australia. Results will identify current strengths and provide a baseline for ongoing improvements.

Doctors in training around Australia are getting behind the MTS and encouraging their colleagues and peers to have their say. Listen to what trainees have to say about the MTS.

If you supervise or work with doctors in training, please encourage them to do the MTS. More participants lead to better quality data and a strong evidence base for ongoing improvements.

The MTS is funded and coordinated by the Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA, and administered at arm’s length by an independent survey provider, EY Sweeney, which will analyse the information and will develop reports.

Survey results will be published in early February 2020. Analysed data will be reported through an online data dashboard with adjustable filters to tailor results to jurisdictions or specialties. 

Participating in the MTS is safe and confidential. The Board and AHPRA will not receive any information that identifies individuals. Survey data will be aggregated and deidentified and results will only be reported when there are more than 10 participants.

The survey is open to all doctors in training in Australia. This includes interns, hospital medical officers, resident medical officers, non-accredited trainees, postgraduate trainees, principal house officers, registrars, specialist trainees and international medical graduates. Career medical officers who intend to undertake further postgraduate training in medicine can also participate.

There are five versions of the survey, tailored to specific groups of doctors in training: interns, prevocational trainees (including unaccredited registrars), specialist trainees (non-GP), specialist GP trainees and international medical graduates (IMGs). More than 80 per cent of questions are common across the surveys.

To make it easy, we have linked the survey to medical registration renewal for most trainees. However, interns and IMGs do not renew registration at this time so there are two ways to do the MTS:

  • interns and IMGs: click on the survey link in an email from the Medical Board of Australia
  • all other medical trainees: Do the survey when you renew your medical registration. We will ask you whether you are a doctor in training in the renewal form, if you say YES, the survey link will appear after you complete your renewal and workforce survey.

For more information, visit www.MedicalTrainingSurvey.gov.au.

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Consultation

Thanks for your feedback: We are now considering what you told us about our proposed approach to regulating medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments

A record number of people took part in our consultation on regulating medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments. The consultation has now closed.

We received more than 10,000 submissions before the 30 June consultation end-date. They were from organisations, doctors (those who work in these fields and those whose patients seek these treatments), patients and other members of the community. There was so much interest in this regulatory discussion that we twice extended the consultation period to give everyone a chance to have their say. We value all this feedback and will take all of it into consideration.

We will be publishing submissions as soon as we can, but given the volume of responses to the consultation, this could take longer than usual. Many submissions were from patients who describe the importance of complementary medicine in their lives. Many people asked us to keep their details confidential. Given the resources involved in making sure we don’t publish information and submissions that we have been asked not to publish, we are considering alternative publication approaches for these submissions.

It will take some time for the Board to review all the submissions, analyse the issues raised and decide on the best course of action. In the meantime, we’ve been reading submissions as they’ve come in to get a sense of the issues being raised.

Clearly, there is a very wide range of views about the draft guidelines and the Board’s proposed approach. This appears to reflect the diversity of passionately held views in the profession and the community about these areas of practice.

The consultation 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. We asked for feedback on the terms and definitions we suggested. We wanted to make sure patients have the information they need to make informed decisions about their care.

The Board has no intention to restrict doctors from using safe treatments and no intention to shut down any areas of safe practice. We are concerned that some members of the public may have been unduly anxious or distressed as a result of misunderstandings about the intent and effect of the proposed guidelines.

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Notifications

Tackling the fear of notifications – one practitioner’s experience

Earlier this year, AHPRA launched a series of videos to support the public and registered health practitioners as they go through the notification process.

The video series, called ‘Let’s talk about it’, explains what happens when concerns are raised with the regulator, gives easy-to-follow information about the notifications process and addresses common questions, so consumers and health practitioners know what to expect when they interact with AHPRA and National Boards.

The series is part of our work to minimise the adverse impact of the notifications process on practitioners and notifiers. We’ve added a new video to the series, to help tackle the fear of notifications: A notification was made about me: A practitioner’s experience.

This unscripted video is an honest, first-hand account of a health practitioner’s experience of what it is like to be the subject of a notification to AHPRA. The medical practitioner featured agreed to participate to share her experience and reflections with other practitioners in her situation. In particular, she reflects that she wishes she had reached out for help sooner.

Getting support early is important for any practitioner going through the notifications process. Many practitioners tell us that the notification process is very stressful and that a good support network is essential.

Of course, strengthening our communication is only one of the things we are doing to improve the notifications process and the experience of doctors and patients involved in it. We have started a substantial program of work aimed at reducing timelines, prioritising notifications that pose most risk to patients and changing our approach to meet the challenge of an increasing volume of notifications.

There are now four videos:

The videos sit alongside other written resources available on our website, including information about notifications and understanding the notifications experience.

You can view the videos on the AHPRA and National Board websites or on our YouTube and Vimeo channels, and join the conversation by following AHPRA on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn, use the hashtag #letstalkaboutit and tag @AHPRA.

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Fake practitioners

Fake practitioners face jail and hefty fines as new regulatory powers come into force

From 1 July, the law is getting tougher on people who pretend to be a registered health practitioner. The penalties for anyone prosecuted by AHPRA under the National Law1 for these offences now include bigger fines and the prospect of prison time.

Australia’s health ministers wanted to address the serious risk to the public posed by anyone who pretends to be a registered health practitioner, so they increased the sanctions offenders face.

AHPRA has a strong track record of taking action on individuals pretending to be a registered practitioner when they are not. Since 2014, AHPRA has successfully prosecuted more than 50 cases when people were falsely claiming to be registered practitioners.

Mr Raffaele Di Paolo was successfully prosecuted in two state courts (Victoria and Queensland) for offences under the National Law, including holding himself out as a medical practitioner and specialist health practitioner, when he was in fact a homeopath. He was fined more than $28,000 in Queensland and in Victoria he was sentenced to nine years and six months in jail.

Another high-profile case involved the successful 2017 prosecution of Mr Shyam Acharya, who claimed to be UK-based doctor Dr Sarang Chitale. Mr Acharya was convicted in a NSW Local Court and fined $30,000, and was ordered to pay AHPRA’s legal costs of $22,000.

Other prosecutions have included people pretending to be nurses, physiotherapists, psychologistsdentists and pharmacists.

Fake practitioners betray the trust that patients place in them. Under the changes to the law, offenders face the possibility of a maximum term of three years’ imprisonment per offence. They also face an increase in the maximum fines from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual and from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence for a corporate entity.

Everyone can check the online register of practitioners to make sure they are seeing a registered practitioner who is qualified and meets national standards.

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

Summary of the new laws

  • The amendments were passed in February 2019 by the Queensland Parliament under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) (the Act).
  • The new offence provisions will apply in all states and territories, except Western Australia.
  • The amendments apply to people pretending to be registered health practitioners. Under the National Law, anyone who calls themselves any of the ‘protected titles’, such as ‘medical practitioner’, ‘chiropractor’ or ‘psychologist’, must be registered with the corresponding National Board. It is an offence to use one of the protected titles, and it is also an offence to knowingly or recklessly claim to be a registered practitioner when you’re not or use symbols or language that may lead a reasonable person to believe that an individual is a registered health practitioner or is qualified to practise in a health profession. These offences are known as ‘holding out’.
  • The amendments to offence provisions do not apply to advertising offences under the National Law.

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Board vacancies

Do you want to be on the Tasmanian medical board?

Applications are invited from medical practitioners and members of the community to fill two vacancies on the Tasmanian medical board.

Applications for the practitioner member vacancy close on 9 August 2019 and applications for the community member vacancy close on 26 July 2019.

Further information is available on the Statutory appointments page on the AHPRA website.

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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. These cases were published recently:

  • the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded a general practitioner and imposed conditions on her registration after she failed to disclose a conflict of interest (Medical Board of Australia v Cole)
  • the State Administrative Tribunal in Western Australia has reprimanded a general practitioner and imposed conditions on his registration for inappropriate prescribing of Schedule 8 medication (Medical Board of Australia and Waddell).

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 AHPRA’s website on the Raise a concern 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 23/10/2019