A National Board has the power to establish two types of panel depending on the type of concerns identified. The panel will include health practitioners and a community representative. The panel will decide how the hearing will be conducted, but generally the process may be less formal than public hearing.
The Board can refer a matter to either:
- a health panel (for health matters), or
- a performance and professional standards panel (for professional conduct and performance issues).
A student can only be referred to a health panel and cannot be referred to a performance and professional standards panel.
Panel hearing diagram
Expand the links below for more information on investigation.
A National Board will establish a health panel if it reasonably believes that a practitioner or student has an impairment and it is necessary or appropriate for the matter to be referred to a health panel.
A health panel consists of at least three members selected from a list of people approved by the Board, including:
- at least one member who is a registered practitioner in the relevant health profession
- at least one member who is a medical practitioner with expertise relevant to the practitioner’s impairment, and
- at least one member who is not, and has never been, a registered health practitioner in the relevant profession.
A Board may establish a performance and professional standards panel if, after receiving a notification or any other information, it reasonably believes that:
- the way a registered practitioner practises their profession is, or may be, unsatisfactory, or
- the registered practitioner’s professional conduct is, or may be, unsatisfactory, and it is necessary or appropriate to refer the matter to a panel.
A performance and professional standards panel consists of at least three members, selected from a list of people approved by the National Board. The panel will include:
- at least half, but no more than two-thirds, registered practitioners in the same profession as the practitioner subject to the panel, and
- at least one person representing the community.
AHPRA gives written notice of the hearing to the practitioner.
The notice will tell the practitioner what the hearing is about. The notice also sets out:
- the day, time and place the hearing is to be held
- that the practitioner is required to attend the hearing
- that the practitioner may be accompanied by an Australian legal practitioner or other person
- that if the practitioner fails to attend the hearing, the hearing may continue and the panel may make a decision in their absence, and
- the type of decision the panel may make at the end of the hearing.
A panel hearing is an opportunity for a practitioner to talk about the issues in question, for example, a practitioner may explain why their conduct was reasonable in the circumstances.
AHPRA also gives the notifier (the person who raised the complaint or concern) information about the allegations and what the hearing is about.
AHPRA will tell the practitioner the names of the panel members who are scheduled to conduct the hearing. This gives the practitioner the opportunity to tell AHPRA about any concerns about, or conflicts of interest with, selected panel members before the hearing.
Before the hearing, the panel members receive all the relevant information and documents AHPRA obtained during the investigation or assessment, including information and documents provided. This is usually information the Board relied on when deciding to refer the matter to a hearing. It may also include extra information such as expert reports or formal witness statements. During the hearing, the panel may refer to this information.
Panel members read all the material before the hearing.
The practitioner is provided with the same material as the panel well before the hearing. This gives the practitioner an opportunity to read all the material and to prepare a response.
The notifier (person who raised the complaint or concern) might also be invited to provide a submission to the panel.
At the start of the hearing, one of the panel members (usually the chair) will introduce panel members, state the purpose of the hearing and explain the allegations to be considered. The chair will also explain the procedures that will apply at the hearing.
At the hearing the panel may:
- clarify the purpose of the hearing
- explain the allegations
- explain the procedures that apply at that hearing
- interview the practitioner
- interview the person who raised the complaint or concern
- interview other witnesses
- give the practitioner the opportunity to discuss the allegations with the panel and make submissions, and
- adjourn the hearing to get further information it needs.
The National Law lets a practitioner be accompanied by a legal practitioner or another person. If the practitioner wants a lawyer or another person to speak on their behalf, they must ask AHPRA about this before the hearing, as the panel decides whether or not the legal representative or another person may speak for the practitioner at the hearing. AHPRA will tell practitioners this before the hearing.
The panel is likely to consider factors such as the practitioner’s ability to participate in the process, the complexity of the material to be considered, the seriousness of the allegations and the nature of the notification.
A notifier (person who made the complaint or raised the concern about the practitioner) does generally not attend the panel hearing. An exception is when they may need to attend to be interviewed by the panel or the practitioner.
Similarly, there are not usually witnesses at a panel hearing. Panels tend to rely on witness statements and other written material.
Panel hearings are not open to the public.
After the hearing, the panel may decide that the practitioner has no case to answer and take no further action. If the panel decides the practitioner does have a case to answer, it can decide that:
- the practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes unsatisfactory professional performance and/or
- the practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes unprofessional conduct and/or
- the practitioner has an impairment and/or
- because the practitioner engaged in professional misconduct, provided false or misleading information or asked that the matter to be referred, the hearing will cease and the matter will be referred to the responsible tribunal, and/or
- the matter must be referred to another entity for investigation or other action.
If a panel decides that a practitioner or student has an impairment, or that the practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes unsatisfactory professional performance or unprofessional conduct, the panel may decide to:
- impose conditions on the registration of the practitioner or student and/or
- for a health panel, suspend the registration of the practitioner or student, and/or
- for a performance and professional standards panel, caution or reprimand the practitioner.
After hearing a matter about a student, a health panel may decide the student:
- has no case to answer and no further action is to be taken, or
- has an impairment, or
- that the matter must be referred to another entity for investigation or other action.
In some cases, the chair of the panel may advise the practitioner of the panel’s decision on the day of the hearing.
The panel must give formal written notice of its decision to the Board as soon as possible after making the decision.
The Board must, within 30 days after the panel makes its decision, write to the practitioner or student and include:
- a written copy of the panel’s decision
- the reasons for the decision
- advice that the practitioner or student may appeal against the decision
- information about how to apply for an appeal, and
- how long the practitioner has to appeal.
More information is available in the Appeals fact sheet.