Significant progress made on chaperone recommendations

04 Aug 2017

The MBA and AHPRA have released a status report on the implementation of the recommendations from the Independent review of the use of chaperones.

The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), today, released a status report on the implementation of the recommendations from the Independent review of the use of chaperones to protect patients in Australia.

Three months on from the report’s release all 28 recommendations are now being implemented, with a small number requiring continued focus before they are fully complete.

In August 2016, the MBA and AHPRA commissioned a review to consider whether, and if so in what circumstances, it is appropriate to impose a chaperone condition on the registration of a health practitioner to protect patients while allegations of sexual misconduct are investigated.

The independent report by Professor Ron Paterson, Professor of Law at the University of Auckland and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Melbourne Law School, found the use of chaperones does not meet community expectations and does not always keep patients safe.

The final report was published on 11 April 2017 and the MBA and AHPRA accepted all 28 recommendations.

Key highlights from the implementation of the recommendations include that:

We changed the way the MBA deals with allegations of sexual misconduct

  • The MBA issued guidance to its boards and committees confirming it had accepted all the recommendations in the report and since then no new decisions have been made by the Board to require a practitioner to practise with a chaperone present.
  • The MBA has established a National Sexual Boundaries Notifications Committee to deal with all matters about sexual misconduct.
  • We are auditing all practitioners subject to a chaperone requirement, in order to ensure the restriction is adequately protecting the public. Since 1 July 2017, 25% of all practitioners affected have been audited.
  • Specialist AHPRA investigators have been identified and received specialist training to manage complaints and/or concerns about sexual misconduct.
  • We established a National Specialist Compliance Team within AHPRA to monitor practitioners with conditions related to allegations of sexual misconduct.
  • Members of the National Sexual Boundaries Notifications Committee and the staff that engage with victims have received training from Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service.
  • Our work to establish clear inter-agency protocols with police departments across Australia continues including appointing a dedicated senior legal officer who will manage information disclosure to and relationships with police jurisdictions across Australia.

We reviewed and updated our policies and procedures

  • Our National Restrictions Library has been updated with a new gender-based restriction and related protocol. The library provides a consolidated structure for common restrictions (conditions and undertakings) used across the National Scheme’s regulatory functions to ensure consistency in decision-making and in monitoring and compliance. These restrictions continue to be published on the Register of medical practitioners.
  • Our processes have been updated and a new practice monitor restriction and related protocol is now in place. This is to deal with any situations where a decision-maker may decide to impose a practice monitor restriction.

Why these changes are important

Medical Board of Australia Acting Chair, Associate Professor Stephen Bradshaw AM, said the report was unapologetic in making it clear to regulators, courts and legislators how they can strengthen public protection and keep the system fair to medical practitioners.

‘The Chaperone report is a benchmark for all of us involved in the regulation of health practitioners. For our part, the Board has worked hard to make changes quickly to reflect the report’s recommendations,’ Associate Professor Bradshaw said.

‘A key recommendation was for the Board to stop using chaperone conditions when we take action to protect the public. We did this as soon as the report was published.

AHPRA CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, said AHPRA is on the right path to full implementation of the recommendations.

‘Publishing this update shows what we are doing to deliver on our promise to implement all the recommendations in the report for the better protection of the public.’ Mr Fletcher said.  

Professor Paterson welcomed the progress made by the Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA in implementing the recommendations of his report Independent review of the use of chaperones to protect patients in Australia.

‘It’s clear that a lot of work has been done to implement the raft of recommendations I made – to abandon the use of chaperones as an interim restriction and improve the handling of sexual misconduct cases,’ Professor Paterson said.

‘As I said in my review, patients, practitioners and the public deserve prompt, thorough, fair and consistent action in the interim period while the truth of sexual misconduct allegations is examined.’

He continued, ‘Cases where it is alleged that a health practitioner has made a sexual advance or sexual assault on a patient need prompt and specialist handling by the relevant authorities. The changes introduced by the Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA will improve the protection of patients and the community – and will result in more timely and consistent decisions, something that is important for notifiers and practitioners.’

Download our Progress update: Medical Board - Report - Progress report - Implementing the recommendations of the Independent review of the use of chaperones to protect patients in Australia (124 KB,PDF)

For more information

  • Visit www.ahpra.gov.au under Contact us to lodge an online enquiry form
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Page reviewed 4/08/2017