Medical Board of Australia - November 2016
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November 2016

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair’s message

Doctors are the most trusted profession in Australia, along with nurses and pharmacists, according to research we commissioned into community and doctors’ views about trust, confidence and fitness to practise in the medical profession. It’s great to know that patients trust their doctors and there is no doubt that the vast majority of doctors work really hard to be good at what they do. It’s up to the medical profession as a whole, and the Medical Board as the regulator, to make sure this trust is well founded.

We commissioned the research as part of our work on revalidation. We have ruled out UK-style revalidation and made it clear that doctors will not be required to re-sit their fellowship exams every five years. You have until the end of November to have your say about how we should make sure that doctors are competent and keep up to date throughout their working lives.

Dr Joanna Flynn AM
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Latest tribunal decisions

Recent decisions have been published online

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 in the last month have included:

Publication of panel, court and tribunal decisions

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 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 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 under Notification outcomes and hearing decisions.

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Maintaining patient trust

Social research published

Doctors are the most trusted profession in Australia, along with nurses and pharmacists, according to social research into community and doctors’ views about trust, confidence and fitness to practise in the medical profession.

The Board commissioned the independent social research as part of its work on revalidation, which aims to help make sure that doctors are competent and keep up to date throughout their working lives.

The social research was designed to help the Board understand what the public expects doctors to do to demonstrate ongoing fitness and competence, and what medical practitioners believe they need to do to maintain and enhance their knowledge and skills.

It’s fantastic to know that patients trust their doctors and there is no doubt that the vast majority of doctors work really hard to be good at what they do. It’s up to the medical profession as a whole, and the Medical Board as the regulator, to ensure this trust is well founded.

The research analysed feedback from 3,000 doctors and 1,000 members of the community. It found there are some gaps between what doctors now do, and what the community expects. Key findings include:

  • 90 per cent of the community trust doctors and nurses, 85 per cent trust pharmacists and seven per cent trust politicians
  • doctors and the community agree that the most important attributes for building confidence and trust with patients are effective communication and doctors explaining their diagnosis and treatment
  • 39 per cent of doctors and 72 per cent of the public think doctors’ practice should be reviewed at least every five years, and
  • 40 per cent of doctors and five per cent of the public think doctors should only be reviewed if there are concerns about their practice.

Most doctors say they are doing a range of continuing professional development (CPD) activities, but less than half reported being involved in clinical audit or peer review. Almost all are confident they are maintaining their professional competence.

Sixty-two per cent of doctors thought that all doctors should be reviewed from time to time, and 20 per cent disagreed.

According to the report, Australians are unaware of how doctors are currently reviewed but think it is important that they are reviewed at least from time to time.

More than half the doctors surveyed support demonstrating their capacity to provide high quality medical care as a requirement of their annual registration renewal.

The research gives us some great information about what doctors are doing now to keep their skills and knowledge up to date, and about what doctors and the community think they should be doing.

The social research report is available on the news page and on the Revalidation consultation page. 

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Revalidation – consultation closing soon

There is still time to have your say on revalidation before the consultation closes at the end of November 2016.

The Board has ruled out UK-style revalidation and made it clear that doctors will not be required to re-sit their fellowship exams every five years.

Since August, the Board has been engaging with the profession and the community about options for revalidation in Australia, based on recommendations made in an interim report from the Board’s Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on revalidation. The EAG recommended a model combining strengthened CPD and the proactive identification and assessment of ‘at-risk’ and poorly performing practitioners.

In recent months, we have invited organisations to forums in each state and territory on revalidation and met with specialist medical colleges to hear their views and learn about what they are doing now.

The EAG will make its final report to the Board in mid-2017, after analysing all the submissions made in the consultation, comments from the online discussion forum and survey responses.

The Board will review the findings of the social research, consider the advice of the EAG in its final report and then set a direction and propose what is needed so that doctors in Australia remain competent throughout their working lives.

There is still time to tell us what you think:

The consultation closes on 30 November 2016.

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Annual report published.

2015/16 annual report now available

The 2015/16 annual report of AHPRA and the national health practitioner boards has been published.

The annual report is a comprehensive record of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the 12 months ending 30 June 2016.

Over the past year, the Medical Board focused on three major initiatives: cosmetic procedures, doctors’ health and revalidation – on top of our daily work with AHPRA to improve our existing processes and systems.

There was an increase in notifications this year. We know how important it is to assess and manage these quickly, so we can close less complex matters early and focus on addressing concerns that pose the greatest potential risk to the public.

Other highlights include:

  • More registered medical practitioners: On 30 June 2016, there were 107,179 registered medical practitioners across Australia, an increase of 3.92 per cent from the previous year. Medical practitioners made up 16.3 per cent of all registered health practitioners in the National Scheme.

  • More health practitioners overall: There were almost 20,000 more registrants in 2015/16 across the 14 regulated professions than there were last year, with 657,621 health practitioners registered nationally. Student registrations increased by more than 11,000 registrants year-on-year, totalling 153,710.

  • A simplified renewal process: Online registration renewals reached a new high across all professions – with more than 98 per cent of all registrants renewing online and on time. Online renewal makes it easier for health practitioners to renew their registration each year.

  • A substantial increase in medical practitioners holding provisional registration: Of the total medical practitioners, 5,408 held provisional registration – 711 more than last year. Most of these are graduates in their first postgraduate year, in an accredited intern position while they progress toward eligibility for general registration.

  • An increase in student registrations: There was a 5.8 per cent increase in the number of registered medical students year-on-year, with 19,760 registrants in this category on 30 June 2016.

  • Greater awareness of the National Scheme: A nationwide campaign aimed at employers, practitioners and the general public rolled out across social media and in print advertising.

  • Growth in notifications across all professions: There were 10,082 notifications received during the year across all professions, an increase of 19.7 per cent nationally.

  • Increase in new notifications about medical practitioners: In 2015/16, AHPRA received 5,371 notifications nationally about medical practitioners (including data from the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW). This represents an annual increase of 18.3 per cent from the previous year, much of which can be attributed to an increase in matters referred to AHPRA in Queensland by the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO).

  • Most complaints about medical practitioners related to clinical care: 51.2 per cent of complaints lodged about medical practitioners related to clinical care; 9.3 per cent were medication issues and 8.8 per cent were about communication. (Data includes HPCA in NSW.)

  • Greater awareness around mandatory notifications: There was a 23 per cent increase in mandatory notifications in 2015/16 from the previous year across all health professions, with 272 made about medical practitioners (up from 212 in 2014/15).

  • More than half of all notifications nationwide were about medical practitioners: This represented 52 per cent of all notifications received by AHPRA (excluding HPCA) in 2015/16, consistent with previous years.

  • Fifteen per cent of all statutory offence matters were about medical practitioners: AHPRA received 202 new complaints about possible statutory offences by medical practitioners in the past year. Almost all new matters related to the use of protected titles or advertising concerns.

More information and data relating to the Medical Board of Australia in 2015/16 are available in the annual report.

Supplementary tables that break down data across categories such as registrations, notifications, statutory offences, tribunals and appeals, and monitoring and compliance are also available on the AHPRA annual report webpage.

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Supervision guidelines

Reminder for doctors who supervise IMGs

Do you supervise international medical graduates (IMGs)? Thank you! Supervising IMGs is a really important service to the community and a great support to the IMG. IMGs are a valued and important part of Australia’s health workforce and we all have a role in making sure they’re safe to practise. We’ve had some feedback that it would be helpful to remind supervisors about what you need to do in that role.

What has changed?

Revised guidelines for supervision of IMGs have been in place for nearly 12 months. The guidelines were reworded to make the Board’s expectations clearer and to better set out the four levels of supervision. They also include revised supervision requirements for IMGs providing home visits or locum services.

Who needs to pay attention?

The revised guidelines apply to all IMGs and their supervisors including:

  • IMGs in general practice or hospitals
  • overseas specialists in a short-term training post, and
  • overseas specialists on the pathway to college Fellowship.

The guidelines apply to principal supervisors, co-supervisors, and consultants who are term co-supervisors in hospitals. They do not apply if you are supervising medical students or Australian and New Zealand graduates (interns).

Guidance for IMG supervisors

If you are supervising an IMG you need to:

  • complete an orientation report for all IMGs you are supervising at three months
  • complete a work performance report for all IMGs you are supervising, at three months and then annually (or more frequently if the Board requests it), and
  • assess the performance of the IMG you are supervising against four domains ‒ clinical management, communication, professionalism and safe practice – and identify their strengths and areas for development.

You also need to do the online education module for IMG supervisors, if you’re one of the 18 per cent of supervisors who hasn’t yet done so (you will have received an email with login details). This module points out your responsibilities as a supervisor.

Other responsibilities of IMG supervisors are detailed in the guidelines and include:

  • providing an orientation for the IMG and making sure (as far as you can) that the IMG is practising safely and is not placing the public at risk
  • observing the IMG’s work, conducting case reviews, periodically conducting performance reviews and providing them with constructive feedback, including addressing any problems you identify
  • providing supervision at the level determined by the Board, and
  • being clear about how you can be contacted by the IMG when they are practising, both in and after work hours.

You are also expected to notify the Board immediately if you:

  • are concerned that the IMG’s performance, conduct or health is placing the public at risk
  • think the IMG is not complying with conditions imposed or undertakings accepted by the Board or is in breach of any requirements on their registration, or
  • learn that the IMG is not practising consistent with Board-approved work arrangements.

More information on supervision, including templates for supervision plans and reports, is available on the Supervision webpage. 

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News and alerts

Parliamentary inquiries

Three parliamentary inquiries are due to report back this year. Two started before the 2016 federal election and recommenced later in 2016.

The Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs inquiry into the ‘Medical complaints process in Australia’, focusing on the Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA, is due to report on 30 November 2016. The report will be available on the Senate Committee’s webpage.

The Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs inquiry into ‘The growing evidence of an emerging tick-borne disease that causes a Lyme like illness for many Australian patients’ is also due to report on 30 November 2016. The report will be available on the Senate Committee’s webpage.

The Queensland Parliament is currently conducting an inquiry into the performance of the Health Ombudsman’s functions pursuant to section 179 of the Health Ombudsman Act 2013. AHPRA and the 14 National Boards made a joint written submission to the inquiry. Submissions have now closed and are available on the Queensland Parliament webpage. The final report is due in December 2016. 

Australian Government releases antimicrobial resistance strategy implementation plan

The Australian Government has released the Implementation plan to support the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-19.

The strategy and the implementation plan outline focus areas for activities to minimise the development of antimicrobial resistance.

The Board supports this important initiative noting the key role that medical practitioners have in supporting efforts to address the increasing threats associated with antimicrobial resistance.

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019 and the Implementation plan are available on the Department of Health website.

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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 [email protected].

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 23/04/2024