AHPRA to review policy on anonymous complaints following revenge attack


AHPRA is conducting an urgent review of its confidentiality policies for people who make complaints against practitioners, following the jailing of a doctor over the attempted murder of a pharmacist who reported his misconduct.

The regulator says the apparent revenge attack by a South Australian GP “shocked and appalled” the Medical Board, and left people asking “what can be done to reduce the risk of something like this ever happening again?”

According to media reports, Dr Brian Holder, 69, hired a private investigator to track down a pharmacist who notified AHPRA about his overprescribing of benzodiazepines. Holder was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of stabbing the pharmacist with a fishing knife in an attack at her workplace.

In light of the case, AHPRA says it has commissioned an immediate review of its policies and procedures for safeguarding the confidentiality of notifiers and “any additional steps we may need to take in response”.

The regulator says it has a preference for people who make complaints against practitioners to be identified, to support an open and fair process.

However it is also important that people continue to use the notification system, which AHPRA relies upon to do it job, it says in a statement.

AHPRA says it will accept complaints that are made anonymously, but these “can be very difficult to investigate because there is no way of following them up with the person raising the concerns”.

Anonymous notifiers may be identified by the practitioner anyway, due to the nature of the complaint or supporting information, it adds.

“We have asked the independent National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner Ms Richelle McCausland to work with us to review our policies and procedures in relation to safeguarding the confidentiality of notifiers and any additional steps we may need to take. This review will get underway immediately and we will publish the findings,” the AHPRA statement says.

“Our ability to do our job well depends on people telling us about their concerns …We want everyone to be safe when reporting to us for the greater good,” it concludes.

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