June 2021

Update Medical Board of Australia


Medical Board of Australia news

Medical Training Survey

Survey opens August 2021

The Medical Training Survey (MTS) opens in August 2021, seeking feedback from trainees about the quality of their medical training.

Already, MTS data are being used across the sector to identify what’s working well and to improve medical training. Read more from Queensland Health, and from the specialist medical colleges, through the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges, on the case studies page of the MTS website.

Again in 2021, we are asking trainees about the impact of COVID-19 on training. We’re keen to make sure we understand trainees’ experience of COVID-19.

Thanks to all the doctors in training, specialist medical colleges, postgraduate medical councils, the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Medical Council, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and employers who have helped revise the questions for 2021.

Most MTS questions will be the same as past years because comparisons are important. We keep refining and streamlining the format and layout to make the MTS quicker and easier to do.

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COVID-19 impacts on intern requirements

Relaxed 2021 intern requirements

The Board has introduced flexibility for 2021 interns who have had their rotations interrupted because of COVID-19. This includes a small number of interns who started their intern year in November or December of 2020.

The Board expects that interns will complete 47 weeks accredited service and will complete the full time in each core rotation, unless they have taken leave because of COVID-19. The flexibility is only available to interns who have been unable to work as a direct result of COVID-19, such as isolation or due to COVID-19 related illness.

In 2021, interns who have had to take COVID-19 related leave are required to complete:

  • at least 40 weeks service in accredited intern terms, and
  • the usual core terms. However, the core terms can be reduced up to two weeks each. That means that interns need to complete a minimum of eight weeks medicine, eight weeks surgery and six weeks emergency medical care.

The revised requirements are published in the News item and on the COVID-19 updates page.

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News and alerts

Promotion of COVID-19 vaccinations: further information from TGA and Ahpra

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Ahpra have released a joint statement about the promotion of COVID-19 vaccinations and the responsibilities practitioners and others have under the National Law1 when advertising a regulated health service.

On 7 June 2021, the TGA issued updated guidance regarding the promotion of approved COVID-19 vaccines to clarify the way health practitioners and others can communicate to the public about COVID-19 vaccines.

This updated guidance gives health practitioners greater flexibility to openly discuss vaccination and allows offers of reward to be made to those fully vaccinated under the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Here are some key points that the statement helps to clarify:

  • All promotion of COVID-19 vaccines must comply with the TGA’s guidance, including where health practitioners and regulated health service providers offer rewards for COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Where promotion of COVID-19 vaccines involves advertising of regulated health services it must comply with both the TGA’s guidance and advertising requirements of the National Law, as explained in the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service.
  • The TGA’s guidance and the advertising requirements of the National Law do not apply to information about COVID-19 vaccines provided as part of a consultation or treatment.

When communicating about COVID-19 vaccines, be mindful of your professional obligations under the Board’s Code of conduct. All National Boards have issued a position statement to provide further guidance about how the Boards’ codes of conduct apply to COVID-19 vaccination.

The TGA, Ahpra and the Board support vaccination as a crucial part of the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many medical practitioners have a vital role in COVID-19 vaccination programs and in educating the public about the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

More information

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

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More notifier confidentiality safeguards

Ahpra has strengthened confidentiality safeguards for notifiers, after the conviction of a medical practitioner for the attempted murder of a pharmacist who raised concerns about the practitioner’s prescribing practices.

After the practitioner’s conviction for the attack on the pharmacist, Ahpra asked the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman (NHPO) to review the confidentiality safeguards in place for people making notifications about health practitioners. The review made 10 recommendations, most now implemented by Ahpra. Of the two outstanding recommendations, one is waiting on a change to the National Law, and the other involves an IT upgrade which is scheduled for completion by mid-2022.

All NHPO recommendations to strengthen Ahpra policies, guidance, communications and systems to mitigate risk of harm to notifiers have been implemented, including:

  • updating relevant policies so confidentiality safeguards for the notifier are considered when each new notification is assessed
  • publishing an updated privacy policy and collection statement to clarify how personal information will be used and disclosed, and
  • providing new guidance to staff about how to safeguard confidentiality, including when and how to redact a notifier’s information before sharing it with the relevant practitioner.

Ahpra also prioritises procedural fairness for practitioners. After consulting with professional associations and professional indemnity providers, we have published a new guide for staff to help them manage complaints that lack the detail needed for practitioners to respond meaningfully. We have also published a vexatious notifications framework and introduced new training for staff in identifying and managing vexatious complaints.

Learn more in the news item on Ahpra’s website.

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Western Australian medical practitioners: information on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) will come into effect on 1 July 2021 in Western Australia. 

The WA Department of Health and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Leadership Team, with key stakeholders, have developed resources for Western Australian medical practitioners to understand their obligations, responsibilities and protections under the Act.

Information about the Act and the resources published by the Western Australian Department of Health is available on the Department of Health website. If you need further information, you can contact your professional association or professional indemnity insurer.

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New podcast episodes

Ahpra releases fortnightly episodes of the Taking care podcast, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can access these on the Ahpra website or listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

  • Dr Gerald Hickson, founder of the Vanderbilt Centre for Patient and Professional Advocacy, on the pursuit of professionalism
  • Opening the door to accessible healthcare with Hamza Vayani, World Wellness Group and member, Ahpra’s Community Reference Group, and Darlene Cox, Health Care Consumers’ Association
  • Dr Anna van der Gaag, Professor in Ethics and Regulation, University of Surrey and Emeritus Professor Valerie Braithwaite, School of Regulation and Global Governance, Australian National University, on The kindness movement in healthcare and health regulation
  • Thinking about the future of aged care with Dr Linda Mellors, CEO and Managing Director, Regis Aged Care, Dr Joseph Ibrahim, Geriatrician and Allyson Warrington, CEO, Community Based Support and community member of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia
  • Maggie Toko, Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council, on mental health and the power of lived experience.

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Medical regulation at work

Latest tribunal decisions published

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 decision was published recently:

  • the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded a GP anaesthetist for his care of a patient that was substantially below the standard expected (Medical Board of Australia v McAllister).

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 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 22/07/2021