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A National Board has the power to take immediate action in relation to a health practitioner’s registration at any time, if it believes this is necessary to protect the public. This is an interim step that National Boards can take while more information is gathered or while other processes are put in place.
Immediate action is a serious step. The threshold for the National Board to take immediate action is high and is defined in section 156 of the National Law.1 To take immediate action, the National Board must reasonably believe that:
In relation to students, the National Board must reasonably believe that they:
Immediate action limits a practitioner’s registration and their practice in some way and includes:
Under the National Law, a National Board can only take immediate action to suspend or impose conditions on a practitioner’s registration after giving the practitioner an opportunity to make a submission about the proposal. In general, the following process applies:
The length of time involved in the ‘show cause’ and ‘immediate action’ process varies based on the National Board’s assessment of the risk to the public.
After hearing from the practitioner or their legal representative, or considering the submissions made, the National Board must decide:
The National Board, through Ahpra, writes to the practitioner and gives them reasons for its decision.
You will always be advised if the National Board is considering taking immediate action on your registration. You will be given the opportunity to make written or verbal submissions about the action being proposed. This is called a ‘show cause’ process.
When a National Board proposes to take immediate action, a ‘show cause’ process is involved. This ensures that there is natural justice for the practitioner.
‘Show cause’ means that the National Board gives the practitioner notice that it proposes to take immediate action, including the specific action that the National Board is proposing. The practitioner has the opportunity to respond to this notice.
The time given to the practitioner for a response will vary based on the degree of risk to the community, but the practitioner is always afforded natural justice, including the right to understand the concerns that have been raised about them and the right to be heard (or ‘show cause’).
National Boards encourage practitioners to seek advice and representation through their professional indemnity insurer or legal representative at this stage.
The National Board must take into account any submissions made by or received from the practitioner or their legal representative, before making a decision to take action on the practitioner’s registration. The National Board can decide to not take immediate action or to take the proposed immediate action (as above).
There are some issues that commonly prompt a National Board to propose immediate action and they are summarised in the table below. However, the National Board must base its decision to take immediate action on evidence, consider the credibility of any witnesses and take the practitioner’s submission into account before making a decision about whether to restrict the practitioner’s registration in some way.
Immediately after deciding whether or not to take immediate action, a National Board must also decide on what further action it considers appropriate. This can include conducting an investigation, seeking a health or performance assessment, or referring a matter directly to a tribunal. The National Board, through Ahpra, gives written notice to the practitioner and states the reasons for its decision.
The decision to take immediate action takes effect either on the date the notice of a decision by the National Board is given to the practitioner or student, or a later day stated on the notice.
The immediate action decision continues until:
A decision to suspend a practitioner or student’s registration or impose conditions as a result of immediate action can be appealed to the responsible tribunal. For details, see the appeals information sheet.
Restrictions on a practitioner’s registration as a result of immediate action are usually published on the register of practitioners, unless they relate to the practitioner’s health. Private health information is not published.
1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).