A National Board may decide to investigate a registered practitioner or student if it is concerned about a risk to patients or the public because of a practitioner’s health or welfare, how the practitioner behaves or how the practitioner is treating patients.
Referral to investigate from assessment, immediate action, health assessment, or performance assessment
Expand the links below for more information on investigation.
A National Board may need to investigate following an assessment or the immediate action process.
A National Board also has the power to start an investigation without receiving a complaint or concern if it has information that a practitioner poses a risk to patients or the public. This is called an ‘own motion’ investigation.
A National Board might start an ‘own motion’ investigation in different situations, for example:
- it comes across information that is publicly available about a practitioner (such as a report on television or in the media)
- an investigation about one practitioner reveals information about another practitioner, or
- to ensure that a practitioner or student is complying with conditions imposed on their registration or an undertaking given by the practitioner or student to the Board.
A National Board appoints an investigator to conduct the investigation. This investigator is usually an AHPRA officer or part of a team of AHPRA investigators.
The investigator will contact you as part of the investigation and provide their contact details. They will answer any questions you have about the process and the investigation.
The investigation process will depend on the nature of the issues, the information needed, how complex the matter is and how many people are involved.
Even though each investigation is different, they are all guided by nationally consistent policies, procedures and legal obligations.
Most commonly, an investigation will involve the investigator asking for information from a number of different sources. These may include:
- information from the person who raised their concern with the Board (the notifier)
- responses and explanations from the practitioner being investigated
- contents of patient records
- information or statements from other practitioners who may be involved
- information or statements from witnesses (for example, family members, other patients or staff members)
- independent opinions from experts or information from professional bodies
- police reports, and/or
- information from other sources such as pharmacy records, health insurers or Medicare Australia.
An investigation will also consider whether a practitioner has complied with a National Board’s registration standards, codes and guidelines.
The length of the investigation may depend on the complexity of the matter and how long it takes to gain access to the relevant records or information. The National Law requires that investigations happen in a timely way. Reports about the average timeframes for investigations and other statistics can be found on our performance data page.
As part of an investigation, AHPRA Investigators have the power to request information from you. This can include documents or details of facts that a person has knowledge of.
After receiving a written notice asking for information, it is an offence under the National Law not to provide that information. In some circumstances, a person can refuse to provide the requested information if that information might incriminate them.
If you are the person who made the complaint or raised a concern, it may be difficult to investigate your complaint fully if you do not cooperate with the investigation or provide the information requested.
If you are a health practitioner or student who is being investigated, or if you are a practitioner who has been contacted as part of an investigation about another practitioner, failing to cooperate with the investigation or provide information may result in regulatory action being considered against you by the relevant National Board.
At the end of an investigation, the investigator will prepare a report for the National Board containing all of the relevant information collected during the investigation. This report is prepared only for the National Board and is not released to the practitioner or the person who raised the complaint or concern.
As a result of an investigation a National Board may decide to take one or more of the following actions based on the allegations, facts and evidence:
- no further action
- refer to a health assessment
- refer to performance assessment
- refer to a health panel
- refer to a performance and professional standards panel
- refer to a tribunal hearing
- impose conditions on a practitioner’s registration
- accept an undertaking from the practitioner, and/or
- caution the practitioner.
Once the National Board has made a decision as to what action to take in relation to a student or practitioner, the person who raised the complaint or concern will be provided with some information as to what action was taken and why this decision was made.