Doctors would have the full details of any historical disciplinary findings and criminal charges against them divulged on AHPRA’s public register under proposed amendments to the National Law underpinning the regulation of health practitioners.
The idea is among a raft of proposed reforms put forward for public consultation in an options paper released on Monday (August 6), which seeks to ensure the National Law is “up to date and fit for purpose” following its creation in 2010.
The report includes an option of expanding the information that will be included on the AHPRA Register of Practitioners to include a full disciplinary history that lists findings of other regulators, criminal charges and convictions and bail conditions.
The consultation paper notes there have been calls to increase the public’s ability to discover adverse findings against their healthcare practitioner in the interests of transparency. Such calls have come from Medical Board of Australia chair Dr Johanna Flynn and Professor Ron Paterson, the author of last year’s independent review into the use of chaperones in medicine. The Paterson report concluded that “the limited information being published was insufficient” and “patients should not have to resort to Dr Google to find information about a doctor’s previous disciplinary or criminal record for sexual misconduct”.
In response to the Paterson review, the Medical Board announced in March 2018 that the practitioner register would start to include web links on a doctor’s entry to all tribunal decisions and court rulings about that practitioner. But following an outcry, the Board compromised and agreed to only put links to tribunal cases where there had been an adverse finding.
The consultation document seeks feedback on the threshold for publishing – and removing – such information, the need to broaden the grounds for an application by a doctor to suppress information, including risk of domestic violence.
A range of tougher new reforms to the National Law flagged in the options paper include:
- A REQUIREMENT for doctors to report within seven days when they have had a professional negligence settlement or judgement made against them;
- ALLOW boards to refuse to renew a practitioner’s registration if they fail to comply with an undertaking;
- PERMIT the national regulator, AHPRA, to issue public warnings about practitioners considered a risk to the public;
- FORCE doctors to tell their patients why they are required to practice with a chaperone – & chaperones to be briefed on why they are there;
- INCREASED penalties for commercial health services that influence doctors to compromise their clinical independence in respect to referrals, consultation targets, prescribing and ordering of tests and imaging.
- RAISING fines for advertising offences from $5,000 to $60,000 for an individual and $10,000 to $120,000 for a body corporate.
There are also proposals to ease existing rules to:
- ALLOW practitioners the right to appeal against cautions issued by a board;
- ALLOW the Medical Board of Australia the option to not refer a doctor to a tribunal where it reasonably forms the view that there are no serious ongoing risks to the public;
- PERMIT the private settlement of matters between doctors, complainant and a Board, where there is agreement and where any public risks can be adequately addressed;
- ALLOW boards to caution, rather than prosecute, practitioners who inadvertently practise while unregistered for a short period;
- EASE the ban on testimonials to advertise health services, which it is argued has become unrealistic since the advent of social media and difficult to regulate.