October 2018

Update Medical Board of Australia

Clinical advisors reflect

Advice from our clinical advisors − notifications are stressful but manageable

AHPRA’s team of clinical advisors reviews every notification made to the Board. They are registered medical practitioners who provide clinical advice on the assessment and management of notifications about medical practitioners.

We asked them for some reflections after their first year in the job … and their first reaction was to reassure doctors that being subject of a notification may be really stressful, but it’s not the end of the world.

They thought some context, in the form of data about notifications, would be helpful.

Key facts

  • A complaint or concern about a doctor is called a notification In the National Scheme.
  • Most notifications (63 per cent) are made by patients, relatives or members of the public.
  • Other notifications are made by another practitioner, referred by a health complaints agency, initiated by the Board or made by employers.
  • Most involve concerns about a doctor’s conduct, performance or health.
  • A minority relate to advertising or misuse of the title ‘registered medical practitioner’.

How common are complaints?

You’re not alone if someone makes a complaint about you. In 2016/17:

  • five per cent of registered medical practitioners had a notification made about them
  • 3,617 complaints were made to AHPRA about doctors – nearly 15 per cent more than in 2015/16 and 44 per cent more than in 2014/15, and
  • doctors made up 16 per cent of the health practitioner workforce, and accounted for 54 per cent of all complaints to AHPRA.

What happens to these notifications?

In the vast majority of cases, the Board takes no further regulatory action on complaints. This can be because the doctor has already made practice or other changes that manage risk to patients or the complaint does not raise issues of risk and therefore regulatory action is not needed. In 2016/17 the Board:

  • decided no further regulatory action was needed on 76 per cent of the 3,557 complaints closed in the year
  • issued a caution in 11 per cent of cases
  • imposed conditions in 5.5 per cent of cases, and
  • accepted an undertaking accepted in 1.7 per cent of cases.

In less than one per cent (0.6 per cent) of cases, a doctor’s registration was suspended or cancelled by a court or tribunal.

What if someone complains about me?

  • Remember it’s not the end of the world – 76 per cent of notifications involve no further regulatory action.
  • Let your professional indemnity insurer know, so they can help you respond and support you through the process. That is part of their role.
  • Reach out for assistance and support  ̶  from colleagues, your GP, your professional indemnity insurer, your local doctors’ health service or professional association.

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Registration renewal

Most practitioners renewed on time

We are pleased to report that 93 per cent of medical practitioners submitted their renewal of registration on time, and of these, 98.6 per cent renewed online.

Medical practitioners with general, specialist and non-practising registration were due to renew their registration by 30 September 2018. If you meant to renew and still haven’t, you can renew in October, but a late fee applies.

Under the National Law, practitioners who do not renew their registration within one month of their registration expiry date must be removed from the national register of practitioners. Their registration will lapse and they will not be able to practise medicine in Australia until a new application for registration is approved. This could take time.

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Alerts

AHPRA to conduct pilot audit on advertising compliance in early 2019

Early in 2019, AHPRA will pilot an audit of practitioner compliance with advertising guidelines. The pilot – involving the dental and chiropractic professions – will require practitioners to make a declaration about their advertising when they renew their registration. Practitioners will be randomly selected for audit to check if their advertising complies with national requirements.

The Medical Board will review the pilot process to inform future audit and compliance work and advance a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements. We will keep you informed.

You can read more about your advertising obligations on the AHPRA website advertising resources page.

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Regulation starts for paramedics in December 2018

Paramedicine will become a nationally regulated profession on 1 December 2018, Ministers have announced. From this date, the title ‘paramedic’ will become protected by law, so only people who are registered with the Paramedicine Board of Australia will be able to call themselves a paramedic.

More information is available on the Paramedicine Board website.  

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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 and fined a medical practitioner in relation to the ordering of blood tests for Essendon Football Club players (Medical Board of Australia v Willcourt)

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 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 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 to not 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.


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

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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: 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 30/10/2018