November 2020

Update Medical Board of Australia

Chair’s message 

Complaints are on the rise in healthcare in Australia and across the world. For many of us, that means a notification (complaint) will be made about us at some point in our professional lives. You can read more about notifications to the Board (the number, the type and the outcome) in the article below on our annual report. You can also read more about recent changes to the way we manage notifications. By applying a risk assessment and control framework and engaging directly with practitioners, their representatives and employers early, we aim to improve the experience for all involved in the process, taking action only when it is necessary to manage ongoing risk. More detail below.

Dr Anne Tonkin
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

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Medical Board of Australia news

Updated advertising guidelines

Do you advertise? Check the updated advertising guidelines

If you advertise your health services, it’s time to check whether your advertising complies with the updated Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service, which take effect on 14 December 2020. They were revised jointly by the National Boards and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) in a scheduled review.

Anyone who advertises a regulated health service must meet the advertising requirements of the National Law.1 This includes registered health practitioners, individuals who are not health practitioners and businesses.

As a general principle, the guidelines require you to put the public first and ensure your advertising is not false, misleading or deceptive.

Changes include:

  • more content about testimonials, protected titles and claims about registration, competence and qualifications
  • new content about the evidence required to make claims about the effectiveness of a regulated health service and what evidence is acceptable
  • changes to layout and order of content to make the guidelines easier to read and comply with.

The Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme has also been updated. The strategy recognises that most health practitioners want to comply with the law and meet their professional obligations. We want to make compliance easy.

The revised advertising guidelines and updated strategy can be found on the Ahpra website:

Also, have a listen to the latest episode of Ahpra’s Taking care podcast, Responsible advertising by regulated health services, which features a discussion about some of the risks, opportunities and nuances of advertising regulated health services.


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

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Notifications

Resetting our approach to investigations

National Boards and Ahpra stand for safe, professional healthcare practice.

All health practitioners and the workplaces at which they practise have roles to play in ensuring public safety. We are improving the way we manage our regulatory investigations about practitioners to better account for our collective responsibilities.

We know that the public are best protected when we support practitioners and their employers to improve safety and professionalism in the delivery of health services. Our efforts and resources should better focus on matters where there are gaps in safe practice that create ongoing risk to the public.

Our revised approach, in place now, aims to improve the experience of notifiers and practitioners by completing most investigations faster. There is a stronger focus on speaking directly to the practitioner. This is so we can gather early information about the practitioner’s individual practice, reflection and their actions in response to notified events. This is key to:

  • closing concerns about low risk practitioners faster, and
  • concentrating our investigations on practitioners that represent higher risk.

Practitioners can help with this by:

  • engaging the supports they need through the process, including indemnifiers and/or professional associations and colleges
  • providing Ahpra with the information it needs as early as possible, and
  • giving their employer permission to share information about them with Ahpra to help validate what the practitioner has told us. 

We also want to understand what a practitioner’s workplace has done in response to the events.

The level of information we need to gather is more wide ranging when the concerns raised could constitute professional misconduct. This includes boundary violations, criminal and unethical behaviour, and significant departure from acceptable standards.

The National Board will take action in response to a concern, when the actions of an individual practitioner and/or their workplaces are not sufficient, to ensure we can prevent the same thing happening again.

More information is available on the Ahpra Concerns about practitioners webpage.

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International medical graduates

Did 2020 exam problems interrupt your ability to progress to general or specialist registration?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for some international medical graduates (IMGs) to show they’re making progress towards general or specialist registration. (Demonstrating this progress is a Medical Board registration requirement.) The Australian Medical Council (AMC) and some specialist colleges cancelled their examinations and assessments because of COVID-19. As well, IT failures affected some specialist college assessments, which had been moved online to be COVID-safe.

The Board recognises these issues were outside the control of individual IMGs. So, in 2020, the Board will not refuse to renew an IMG’s registration or refuse to re-register an IMG, solely because they have not been able to sit an AMC or college examination or assessment. This applies to IMGs who were scheduled to sit an examination or be assessed from March 2020, including the 2020 RACGP exam which was affected by an IT failure.

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Annual report published

2019/20 annual report now available: regulating during a pandemic

The 2019/20 annual report of Ahpra and the national health practitioner boards has been published.

The Annual report 2019/20 is a comprehensive record of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the 12 months to 30 June 2020. This year it also includes how Ahpra and the Boards responded to the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A medicine-specific snapshot and data tables are also published.

Interesting facts about medical regulation include:

  • More health practitioners: There are 801,659 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions
  • More registered doctors: Medical practitioners made up 16% of all health practitioners registered nationally (125,641 individual registered medical practitioners in 2019/20; up from 118,996 in 2018/19).
  • Complaints about medical practitioners: There were 5,745 notifications to Ahpra about medical practitioners. There were 7,254 registered medical practitioners Australia-wide who had notifications made about them (including to Ahpra, the Health Professional Councils Authority (NSW) and the Office of the Health Ombudsman (Queensland)).
  • Of 5,498 medical matters closed in 2019/20, fewer than 29% led to further regulatory action. In 5.5% of closed matters, the Medical Board accepted an undertaking or imposed conditions on the practitioner’s registration; 2.8% ended in a caution or reprimand; 0.6% resulted in cancellation or suspension of registration.
  • In 71.7% of matters, the Board took no further regulatory action: The Board takes no further action when, based on the available information, there is no risk to the public that needs to be managed.
  • Referrals to an adjudication body: The Board refers the most serious allegations to tribunals. In 2020, 61 matters were decided by a tribunal and 11 matters were decided by a panel.
  • 325 mandatory notifications were made about doctors. Half (186) were about professional standards.
  • Criminal offences by medical practitioners: 162 new complaints were made this year relating to possible criminal offences by medical practitioners. Almost 60% of these related to title and practice protection and 38% to advertising breaches.
  • Immediate action was taken 209 times about doctors: The Board takes immediate action to restrict or suspend the registration of a medical practitioner as an interim measure to protect the public while notifications are being investigated.

The 2019/20 annual report, along with supplementary tables that provide data about registrations, notifications, criminal offence complaints, tribunals and appeals, and monitoring and compliance, is available on the annual report page of the Ahpra website.

The medicine-specific snapshot and data tables are on the Medical Board website.

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Quarterly registration data

Latest registration data published

The Board publishes data 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 our 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 medical college program of study

Provider Program Approved Expiry
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists Fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists 28 October 2020 31 March 2024

Medical school programs of study

Provider Program Approved Expiry

Charles Sturt University

Western Sydney University

 

Joint program in Medicine

Bachelor of Clinical Science / Doctor of Medicine

Five-year program  

28 October 2020  

31 March 2027  

Provider Program Approved Expiry
 University of Queensland

Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery

Four-year program

28 October 2020

31 March 2022

News

What do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners do?

We asked the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heath Practice Board to tell us about what their practitioners do and how our professions can work together to strengthen cultural safety and improve care for Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners work across organisations, mostly for health departments and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations. What each practitioner does is determined by their employer.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners provide a broad range of services to their communities and have access to MBS item numbers. They give immunisations; screen for physical, social and emotional wellbeing; are active in health promotion; administer and supply medications; advocate for clients; and provide advice, support and training on culturally safe health services to other health practitioners.

Only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can train and register as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners. They build trust and bring an understanding that is central to providing culturally safe services across the Australian healthcare system. They strengthen culturally safe practice by working alongside non-Indigenous health practitioners, sharing knowledge.

Here are a few very specific things you can do to help.

Ask your health service, employer or other team members:

  • How many Aboriginal Health Practitioners do we employ?
  • Did you know we could make our practice more culturally safe by employing an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner, and help to close the gap?

You can also:

A recent episode of Ahpra’s Taking Care podcast, Collaboration across professions: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, hears from the Chair and practitioner member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board; a dual registered Aboriginal health practitioner and nurse; a GP and a midwife, about the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners in our healthcare system.

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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. The following decisions were published recently:

  • the Supreme Court of Western Australia Court of Appeal has reprimanded and fined a neurologist for excessively charging for services to a patient who was mentally incompetent (Panegyres v Medical Board of Australia)
  • the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia has imposed conditions on the registration of a cardiothoracic surgeon in relation to her clinical care (Medical Board of Australia and Nordstrand).

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 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 27/11/2020