May 2020

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair’s message

As we all move on from the first phase of the pandemic, the Medical Board remains ready to respond quickly and flexibly to emerging new challenges. In the meantime, our focus is back on our core regulatory work. The 2020 Medical Training Survey, coming in August, will create an opportunity to understand the impact of the pandemic on medical training. The 2019 results came out just as COVID-19 started to dominate the news, so if you missed them you can read more about what trainees think of their medical training and create a tailored report on the MTS website. Uncertainty is emerging as our new normal and some things may never be quite the same. Telehealth and videoconferencing have changed the way we do things. We have published an interesting podcast on doctors’ health during the pandemic. And if you could do with some extra support, please contact the health service for our profession, DRS4DRS, in your state or territory.

Dr Anne Tonkin
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Medical Board of Australia news

2020 Medical Training Survey 

The Medical Training Survey will be back in 2020

The 2020 Medical Training Survey (MTS) will open on 1 August. Results will build on the findings of the 2019 MTS, which created the first national, comprehensive picture of medical training in Australia.

We’re thrilled that so many people are accessing the 2019 MTS results and using the data dashboard to generate individualised reports. This was what the MTS data dashboard was set up to do. We want the MTS results to be easily accessible, in the format you need. The results can be used as a quality improvement tool, to strengthen medical training in Australia. We encourage you to develop your own tailored reports using the data dashboard.

We are adapting the 2020 MTS questions slightly to capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical training and get more useful data on bullying and harassment.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the 2019 MTS. Read the 2019 survey results on the MTS website. We’re keen to increase participation rates, so let us know if you are interested and able to help. Please contact us at MTS@ahpra.gov.au.

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Do you want to join the Medical Board?

We have vacancies for board members in three states and territories

Doctors and other members of the community are invited to apply to fill multiple vacancies on the following state and territory medical boards:

  • Victoria – multiple medical practitioner and community members
  • Northern Territory – three medical practitioner members and one community member
  • Australian Capital Territory – three medical practitioner members, the Chair position and two community members.

Applications close Friday 26 June 2020.

More information is published on Ahpra’s Board member recruitment page.

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Queensland Board appointments 

Changes to the membership of the Queensland Medical Board

A new Chair and new members have been appointed to the Queensland Medical Board.

Thank you Dr Susan O'Dwyer

We thank the outgoing Chair of the Queensland Board, Dr Susan O’Dwyer, for her leadership, contribution and dedication. Dr O’Dwyer has served the Queensland community and profession as a Queensland Medical Board member since June 2014 and as Chair since 2016. She is the Executive Director, Medical Services at Metro South Health, one of Brisbane’s major providers of public health services and health education and research. Dr O’Dwyer continues her contribution to medical regulation through her ongoing membership of the national Medical Board of Australia.

Welcome Dr Philip G Richardson

We welcome Dr Philip G Richardson, an emergency medicine physician, as Chair of the Queensland Board. Dr Richardson was appointed Chair in March. He has served on the Queensland Board for three years. He is an experienced board member who has worked across the public and private sectors.

The current members of each of the state and territory medical boards can be found on the website at About us.

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Vale Associate Professor Stephen Bradshaw AM

Remembering a colleague, leader and friend

We remember with respect and great fondness Associate Professor Stephen Bradshaw AM, a vascular surgeon, who passed away in April after a long illness.

A/Professor Bradshaw was a leader in medical regulation in Australia over nearly two decades. First appointed to the ACT Medical Board in 1998, he became President in 2006 and led it (and its successor, the ACT Board of the Medical Board of Australia) until 2016. He made a national contribution as a member of the inaugural national Medical Board of Australia from 2009 to 2018.

In 2017, A/Professor Bradshaw was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant services to medicine as a vascular surgeon, to health practitioner regulation, and to medical education.

A/Professor Bradshaw made a substantial contribution to the community of the ACT and the profession throughout his professional life. He worked across the public and private sectors and over the years was the Head of the Vascular Surgery Unit at the Canberra Hospital, the Director of the Division of Surgery at the Canberra Hospital and Chairman of the Board and Director of Medical Services at the John James Memorial Hospital.

As a regulator and leader in Australia’s National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, A/Professor Bradshaw worked tirelessly to help improve patient safety and access to better medical care. We will warmly remember his contribution, diligence and integrity.

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Notifications

We’re listening: improving the experience of notifications

We’ve been listening to what people with the highest stake in the notifications process have to say about it. On the back of what doctors and notifiers are telling us, we are changing how we manage complaints to support safe practice and deal quickly and fairly with concerns.

Early conversations

Doctors and notifiers have both told us that time delays and poor communication make the notifications process harder. So we – the Medical Board and Ahpra – are changing our approach. We aim to reach out to practitioners and notifiers in a less formal, more human way. From the outset, we want to have a professional dialogue with practitioners, to help us better understand their perspective when a notification is made. We are also spending time talking with notifiers to make sure we understand their experience.

If you are one of the five per cent of doctors who has a notification made about you, expect earlier, less formal and more frequent contact from us.

It’s important – and will not disadvantage you – to acknowledge a poor patient experience. Check with your medical defence organisation (MDO), but we’d be interested to know if you’ve taken steps to make amends when you have seen a problem. Know that we understand that mistakes happen. It’s how you respond to them that makes all the difference.

How will it work?

When a notification is made, we have to deal with it under the law. But we are creating a less stressful, more reflective process that supports safe, professional practice.

When we receive a new complaint about a practitioner, we’ll take a look at all the information we have. This includes the material provided by the notifier, as well as any practitioner-specific data held by Ahpra. Ahpra’s medical clinical advisors work with our notification staff to better screen for clinical risks.

We won’t seek responses that put us in an antagonistic or adversarial position with you. When we call, we’re interested in hearing from you about what might have prompted the complaint. We’re not looking for admissions or denials. Sometimes, all we will need is your reflection about being the subject of a complaint. We are also talking to notifiers. If they’ve gone to the effort to make a complaint, something didn’t go well for them and we need to understand that too.

As a result of this earlier, more informal engagement, we aim to close more notifications without formal requirements for written responses, and improve the experience of the notification process for everyone in it. The Board, Ahpra, practitioners, MDOs and the community have a mutual interest in supporting and fostering safe, professional practice.

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Quarterly registration data

Latest profession-specific statistics published

The Board publishes statistics 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 the Board’s 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 college program of study

 Provider Program Approved Expiry
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists   Fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists  26 February 2020 31 March 2023
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists  Fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists  25 March 2020 31 March 2023
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists  Fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists  25 March 2020 30 September 2020

Medical school program of study

Provider Program Approved Expiry
Griffith University Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Four-year program 
26 February
2020 
31 March
2022
University of Western Australia  Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Four-year program 
25 March
2020
31 March
2023
University of Queensland Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Four-year program 
27 March
2020 
31 March
2023 

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News and alerts

A strategy for embedding cultural safety in the health system

An ambitious strategy from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts, regulators and health organisations committed to embedding cultural safety in the health system has been endorsed by 43 entities including the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the Medical Board of Australia.

The National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020-2025 focuses on achieving patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the norm. It also includes the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and individuals, through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group (which represents all signatories to the strategy), led the development of the strategy.

It is endorsed by organisations, academics and individuals, including the entities who set the education standards for the 183,000 students who are studying to become registered health practitioners and the regulators of Australia’s 750,000 registered practitioners.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020-2025

The vision

Patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is the norm. We recognise that patient safety includes the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety, and that this link must be defined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The objectives

Cultural safety: A culturally safe health workforce through nationally consistent standards, codes and guidelines across all registered health practitioners in Australia.

Increased participation: Increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the registered health workforce and across all levels of the scheme regulating registered practitioners nationally.

Greater access: Greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to culturally safe services from registered health practitioners.

Influence: Using the Strategy Group’s leadership and influence to achieve reciprocal goals. This includes developing a nationally consistent baseline definition to be used across the scheme regulating registered practitioners nationally, which has already been achieved in partnership with the National Health Leadership Forum.

As part of the strategy, we have already reached some goals:

  • partnering with the National Health Leadership Forum (the forum for national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health peak organisations) to develop, consult and finalise a baseline definition of cultural safety for the scheme for regulating health practitioners
  • commissioning high-quality cultural safety training to ensure that the regulation of health practitioners, including the development of standards practitioners must meet and the handling of notifications (concerns about registered health practitioners), is culturally safe
  • recommending and advocating for changes to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to ensure consistency in cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For more information, please read the media release.

There is also a podcast about the strategy, featuring Karl Briscoe and Professor Greg Phillips. See Ahpra's 'Taking care' series of podcasts.

New resources and regulatory responses to COVID-19

We have published new resources for practitioners, to support you as you continue to provide safe care to your communities.

The Medical Board’s regulatory responses to COVID-19 are available on the COVID-19 Board responses page. Read more about moving between roles, CPD and requirements for interns and international medical graduates.

Listen to our podcast on practitioner wellbeing, read our guidance on telehealth and other information on the regulatory responses of National Boards and Ahpra. There are useful FAQs and several interesting podcasts. All resources are available on Ahpra’s Responding to COVID-19 page.

Resource – AMA Guide to social media

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has released a guide to social media. It outlines traps and provides tips for doctors and medical students.

The Board’s Social media guidance: how to meet your obligations under the National Law is available on the Codes, guidelines and policies page on the Board’s website. It does not stop doctors from engaging online or on social media. It encourages practitioners to act ethically and professionally in any setting.

Opportunity to participate in research about drug-drug interaction (DDI) alerts

The University of Sydney and University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) are looking for medical practitioners across Australia to take part in a short online survey. The survey explores prescribers’ perceptions and experiences of drug-drug interaction (DDI) alerts in electronic medication management systems in use in Australia.

More information and the survey are available on this University of Sydney survey page.

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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 Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded a general practitioner, suspended him and imposed conditions on his registration in relation to his prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines (Medical Board of Australia v Watts)
  • the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded and imposed conditions on the registration of a general practitioner in relation to his prescribing of ketamine (Medical Board of Australia v Barrett)
  • the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded, fined and imposed conditions on the registration of a medical practitioner for plagiarism and falsifying an exam results letter (Medical Board of Australia v Soh).

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 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 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 29/05/2020