Complaints about AHPRA jump 40% in a year


By Geir O'Rourke

29 Nov 2022

Complaints about AHPRA have risen 42% in  the past financial year, underscoring the continuing impact of the pandemic on doctors, says the ombudsman responsible for hearing grievances against the regulator.

The National Health Practitioner Ombudsman says it was approached 1593 times by health practitioners in 2021-22, a record 65% increase on the previous 12 months.

This included 823 complaints regarding AHPRA and the boards – up from 581 in 2020-21. Some 70% of these related to the Medical Board of Australia, also a record high.

The office accepts last resort appeals from practitioners and patients unhappy with the outcome of a regulatory decision, although it cannot directly overturn decisions by the board.

In its annual report handed down last week (link here), it estimated 327 complaints were related to the pandemic, 304 of which involved a notification to AHPRA.

“The increase in complaints we received this financial year appears to mostly have been driven by people raising concerns about regulatory responses to the pandemic, particularly the AHPRA and the Boards’ statements regarding health practitioners’ obligations around vaccination,” ombudsman Richelle McCausland said in the report.

The most common pandemic-related complaints were:

  • mandatory vaccination and exemptions from mandatory vaccination – 177 (54% of complaints)
  • a doctor or health practitioner being ‘gagged’, ‘muzzled’, ‘silenced’ or ‘censored’, or patients not giving informed consent to vaccination – 65 (20% of complaints)
  • mandatory vaccination of health practitioners, including loss of work due to refusing to be vaccinated – 11 (3% of complaints).

“Directly or indirectly, 85% of the pandemic-related complaints we received concerned AHPRA and the Boards’ vaccination statements”, the report said.

It comes as AHPRA released its own annual report (link here), also revealing it and its co-regulators in NSW and Queensland received 18,710 complaints about 14,313 health practitioners in Australia.

This equated to roughly 1.7% of registered practitioners in the 2021-22.

Patients and their families accounted for almost two-thirds of complaints to AHPRA about doctors (62%). The top three reasons for complaints were clinical care, communication and medication issues.

Already a member?

Login to keep reading.

Email me a login link