Doctors are human. We get sick, sometimes we feel anxious, overtired, or burnt out. We may develop depression or other significant mental or physical illness. There is ample evidence that many of us are not good at taking care of ourselves and not good at seeking appropriate professional help, whether for routine medical care or when we have a problem. This is not good for us, for our patients or for the profession as a whole. There are many reasons for this. We have trouble acknowledging our own vulnerability, we fear stigma and we don’t always trust that our colleagues will maintain our confidentiality. A further barrier for some doctors is fear of mandatory reporting. While Australia’s health ministers consider whether to change the law about mandatory reporting, it is important that all doctors realise that the threshold for requiring a mandatory report is high, only reached when an impaired doctor is placing the public at risk of substantial harm. This should not deter us from seeking help and support when we need it.
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 an appeal and a dismissal:
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal upheld the Medical Board of Australia’s decision about:
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal dismissed the Medical Board of Australia’s allegations 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 Law1, 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 on the Make a complaint page.
1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory
Fears about mandatory reporting are cited as a deterrent to doctors seeking help. Only Australia’s health ministers can change the law that sets mandatory reporting requirements. In the meantime, here are some basic facts about mandatory reporting, in case fears are stopping doctors seeking care:
How does the law translate in practice?
You can read more about mandatory reporting requirements on AHPRA’s website.
We are recruiting for Medical Clinical Advisors to join the AHPRA team to provide clinical advice on the assessment and management of notifications about medical practitioners.
For this role you must have unconditional general and/or specialist registration as a medical practitioner and extensive experience and current practice in your specialty.
Preference will be given to practitioners willing to provide general advice on primary care (including general practice) or procedural medicine including anesthesia or consultative medicine (including internal medicine and psychiatry).
There are multiple part-time roles (0.4 – 0.7 FTE preferred) for a 12-month fixed term initially and each can be based in any state or territory. The closing date for applications is 20 July 2017.
Visit the AHPRA website for the position description and more information.
For enquiries please contact Dr Richenda Webb on (08) 7071 5521.
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 AHPRA is using social media to help get the message out.
Federal and state health ministers are considering amending the National Law, which governs the operations of the Medical Board and AHPRA.
Proposed reforms include bringing paramedics into the National Accreditation and Registration Scheme (the National Scheme) from 2018, making changes that will help improve how we manage notifications (complaints), and increasing the penalties for people holding out as registered practitioners.
The health ministers met in Melbourne recently at the COAG Health Council, which oversees the work of the National Scheme.
The Council publishes a communiqué from its meeting which can be accessed on AHPRA’s website.
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 email@example.com.
For registration enquiries or contact detail changes, call the AHPRA customer service team on 1300 419 495 (from within Australia).