23 Nov 2018
A South Australian medical practitioner has been convicted for the attempted murder of a pharmacist after she reported his misconduct.
This case has shocked and appalled the Medical and Pharmacy Boards of Australia and AHPRA and we welcome the full force of the law being applied.
While this event is exceptionally rare it is clearly very serious. People are asking how this could have happened and, most importantly, what can be done to reduce the risk of something like this ever happening again.
We know that the vast majority of health practitioners have a strong commitment to protecting patients from harm. We strive to ensure that all patients, practitioners and others who raise concerns with us are free from any form of harassment and safe from physical harm.
Our primary objective is to ensure protection of the public. To help us do this we are legislated to receive and investigate notifications (voluntary and mandatory) about registered health practitioners made by members of the public, employers and other registered health practitioners.
In other words, we rely on health practitioners and others telling us when they have a concern about a registered health practitioner who is putting patient safety at risk and which may need us to act.
We have a legal obligation to ensure our processes are fair and transparent to both the individual making the complaint and the registered health practitioner about whom the concern has been raised.
For the vast majority of notifications, people agree to be identified in the information we provide to a practitioner so that they can respond to the complaint. This is our preference because it provides everyone involved in the complaint the relevant information and supports an open and fair process.
In some cases, a notifier may request that we do not provide their identity to the practitioner and we respect this. However, even people making a confidential complaint may still be identifiable to the practitioner because of the nature of the complaint or the supporting information.
We can – and do – receive anonymous complaints. However, complaints that are received anonymously can be very difficult to investigate because there is no way of following them up with the person raising the concerns.
Our ability to do our job well depends on people telling us about their concerns. We want everyone to be
safe when reporting to us for the greater good.
We have asked the independent National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner Ms Richelle McCausland to work with us to review our policies and procedures in relation to safeguarding the confidentiality of notifiers and any additional steps we may need to take. This review will get underway immediately and we will publish the findings.
We will continue to do as much as we are able, as regulators of individual health practitioners, to ensure we protect the public from potential harm. We want it to be safe for people to report their concerns and will continue to review our policies and processes in light of relevant findings, including this latest case.
Read more about how to make a complaint and how complaints and concerns are managed on the AHPRA website.