8 changes to Good Medical Practice Code that you should know about


By Michael Woodhead

20 Jun 2018

The Medical Board of Australia is updating its “Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia” for the first time since 2014. Among the changes are new and expanded sections on bullying, sexual harassment, vexatious complaints, culturally safe practice and social media behaviour.

The Medical Board has released the new draft code for consultation until 3 August 2018. Here are some of the key changes being proposed :

  1. Only recommend treatments “when there is an identified therapeutic need and a reasonable expectation of clinical efficacy and benefit for the patient [and] … acknowledge the medical profession’s generally accepted views and inform your patient when your personal opinion and practice does not align with these.”
  2. Don’t discriminate on medically irrelevant grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
  3. Culturally safe and respectful practice guidelines have been expanded to include advice that “understanding and acknowledging historic factors such as colonisation and its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ health, helps inform care. In particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples bear the burden of gross social, cultural and health inequity. The new code also states that “only the patient and/or their family can determine whether or not care is culturally safe and respectful.”
  4. The 2014 code contains only one reference to bullying whereas the new code contains an extended new section that states emphatically there is no place for discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in the medical profession or in health care. Among its 10 practice points, the new code includes guidance on providing and receiving constructive and respectful feedback and having zero tolerance for discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment.
  5. In a new section on vexatious complaints, the code of practice states that the Medical Board may take action on complaints against other health practitioners that lack substance and have other motivations such as protecting commercial interests or causing harm to another health practitioner.
  6. And in new guidance on on “career transitions” the code states that doctors should be mindful of increasing age and how this may affect performance and considerations of retirement.
  7. On doctor’s health, the updated code includes a new section that explicitly states that a clinician should seek help if suffering stress, burnout, anxiety or depression, and also avoid self-prescribing.
  8. And in the social media age the new code now also amends much of its advice on respectful behaviour, privacy and advertising claims to emphasise that this includes communication through social media channels.

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