Notifications – when someone has a concern

2018/19 Annual Report - Our National Scheme: For safer healthcare
  • 12,445 practitioners had a notification made about them nationally; this is an increase of 13.8% from 2017/18
  • 9,338 notifications about practitioners were received by AHPRA
  • 14.3% increase in notifications received by AHPRA
  • 1.7% of all registered health practitioners were the subject of a notification
  • Immediate action was taken 384 times to restrict or suspend the registration of a practitioner
  • The top three reasons for a notification were:
    • clinical care (46.3%)
    • medication-related issues (10.7%)
    • health impairment (6.5%)
  • 30.5% of health, performance and conduct matters resulted in regulatory action
  • 2,584 practitioners were monitored by AHPRA for health, performance and/or conduct during the year
  • 174 matters were determined by tribunals – 96% resulted in disciplinary action
  • 15 successful prosecutions – 12 were someone claiming they, or someone else, was a registered health practitioner
  • 62 appeals lodged in tribunals about Board decisions
  • Of the 59 appeals that were finalised:
    • 6 resulted in no change to the Board’s decision
    • 7 resulted in the decision being amended or substituted for a new decision
    • 37 resulted in the appeal being withdrawn
    • 9 were dismissed on administrative grounds
  • 668 advertising-related complaints received
  • 369 new offence complaints received about title protection
    • 345 closed following investigation

Compared to 2017/18, we:

  • received 14.3% more notifications
  • closed 26.4% more notifications
  • reduced the number of open investigations, health assessments and performance assessments by 12.3%
  • reduced the number of notifications that have been open for longer than 12 months by 31.0%
  • reduced the proportion of notifications that have been open for longer than 12 months from 21.6% to 13.7%
  • reduced the average time to close a matter in assessment by 14.6%
  • reduced the average time taken to complete notifications overall by 5.1%
  • reduced the average age of open notifications by 6.6%
  • received 2,201 responses to our post-notifications surveys, 64% of which were from practitioners.

Any person or entity can notify us when they have a concern about a registered health practitioner.

When a notification is made about a practitioner, we assess the information in the notification together with practice information, practice-setting information and historical data known about that practitioner.

When this assessment indicates that there is a potential risk to the public, higher than the inherent risk associated with health practice, a National Board can act.

What is a notification?

In the National Scheme, a concern raised about a registered health practitioner or student is called a notification. They are called notifications because an individual or entity can notify us about their concern.

AHPRA manages notifications in partnership with the National Boards. Most of the notifications we receive about individual practitioners are managed through Part 8 of the National Law. Decisions made in response to a notification can affect a practitioner’s registration.

The National Law says some acts are offences. That is why concerns about some acts are treated differently under the National Law. AHPRA can prosecute individuals who commit these offences.

Anyone can notify us about a registered practitioner’s health, performance or conduct.

We receive most notifications (52.3%) from patients, their families and friends, and other members of the public.

We also receive notifications (18.4%) from health practitioners and employers.

Registered health practitioners and employers have mandatory notifications obligations in addition to the capacity to make voluntary notifications about other registered health practitioners.

Standards of clinical care continue to be the primary issue notified. The proportion of notifications that were made about this issue increased by 5%.

We also receive notifications about students who are enrolled in programs of study that lead to eligibility for registration as a practitioner. Usually, these notifications are made by education providers or places at which students do clinical training. The number of notifications we received about students increased. The proportion of the notifications that resulted in conditions or undertakings affecting the student’s registration was similar to last year.

An important note about our data

AHPRA does not manage all notifications made about health practitioners in Australia. Our data reflect this. We report on only those notifications received and managed by AHPRA and the National Boards, unless otherwise stated.

The notification process is different in NSW and Queensland:

  • In NSW, AHPRA does not manage notifications. They are managed by 15 professional councils [supported by the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA)] and the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC).
  • In Queensland, the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) receives all complaints about health practitioners. It refers some of these to a National Board and AHPRA to manage.

In Queensland, OHO receives all health complaints, including those about registered practitioners. OHO decides whether the complaint:

  • is serious, in which case it must be retained by OHO for investigation
  • should be referred to AHPRA and the relevant National Board for management, or
  • can be closed or managed by way of conciliation or local resolution.

How we manage notifications

We are committed to improving the timeliness of the notification process.

Every notification we receive is important and assessed as quickly as possible. Our assessment starts with a review of the concerns raised in the notification. We usually clarify those concerns in a conversation with the notifier (the person who made the notification).

We consider practice information and the practice setting of the practitioner.

look back at the practitioner’s registration, and any notification and compliance history, to understand whether there have been previous issues, to help analyse and consider risks to patient and public safety.

Usually, we seek a response from the practitioner who has had a concern raised about them.

Often notifications can be closed after this initial assessment without the need for regulatory action. If we need more information, we can investigate.

At any time, when we identify that a practitioner poses a serious risk or there is a strong public interest in limiting a practitioner’s right to practise, there are interim actions that a National Board may take quickly to protect the public.

When does a National Board act?

We recognise the practice of healthcare is not risk-free. Practice in each of the regulated professions potentially poses risks to the public. That is why the professions are regulated.

A National Board's registration standards, codes and guidelines set out what is expected of practitioners when practising their profession.

When concerns are raised about the professional standards of practice of an individual practitioner, or possible impairment, a National Board decides, based on assessment of risk, whether regulatory action is needed to assure patient safety in the future.

Most notifiers are raising a genuine concern. Most practitioners try to do the right thing and are accountable and rectify problems when they arise. When a practitioner’s own response to problems is not enough, others also play a part in assessing and responding to risks. Employers and system regulators play a part in thinking about how to minimise the likelihood of similar risks arising with the practitioner, or a different practitioner. A National Board takes these attitudes, behaviours and actions of practitioners and any employer organisations into account when determining whether it needs to act as the regulator.

When another entity such as a state or federal police service or a coroner is investigating a practitioner or has charged a practitioner with a criminal offence, a National Board may wait for the conclusion of those proceedings before it makes a final decision about a practitioner. This would not prevent a National Board taking interim action to protect the public in the meantime, for instance suspending a practitioner’s registration, until the criminal proceedings have finished.

Improving the notifier and practitioner experience

Since 2016, we have been asking notifiers and practitioners to tell us about their experience of the notifications process through surveys and interviews. We received 2,201 responses to our post-notifications surveys, 64% of which were from practitioners.

One of the key concerns for both notifiers and practitioners is the length of time taken to complete notifications. We have made the following improvements this year to address the concerns of practitioners and notifiers.

Personal contact

We centralised the intake and assessment of notifications, from seven to two locations. A single, national team based in Adelaide and Melbourne is now responsible for the assessment of all new notifications about health practitioners.

With the introduction of our national intake and assessment team, we have changed the way practitioners first hear that they are the subject of a notification. One strong message we receive from notifiers and practitioners is that they would like a more personal approach and appreciate it when we call. So, we’re acting to do that.

first step in most notifications is to pick up the phone and call. We also often speak with notifiers early on to better understand their concern and what they are hoping to achieve.

We prioritise direct contact with notifiers and practitioners whenever possible.

Improved written correspondence

We have continued to update our letters in response to practitioner and notifier feedback.

Both groups told us that simple, brief information in our first correspondence would help them understand what to expect, what are the common outcomes, and how long it would take. We produced a series of ‘postcards’ to accompany our first letters, reducing complex information to a brief page of facts. See Understanding your experience.

Improved communication with a notifier about a Board’s decision

We implemented changes made to the National Law during 2018. These enable us to provide more information to a notifier when we close a notification. We published a Common protocol – Informing notifiers about the reasons for National Board decisions.

We work hard to improve the content and presentation of reasons for the decision. Feedback about our work shows improvement in understanding the reasons for decisions by notifiers. Calling practitioners and notifiers before sending the final outcomes letter can also help explain the reasons for the decision.

New website initiatives

We have made improvements to our website:

We’ve posted a series of short, accessible information videos featuring AHPRA staff talking about the notification process (see Further information).

We’ve improved website layout to make it easier for practitioners and notifiers to find the information they need.

We began sharing stories of practitioners who have been through a notification process. These first-hand, unfiltered accounts of what the notification experience is like are posted in video format to our website (Understanding your experience). They tell a first-person story about getting through the notification experience in the best way possible.

Support services

On our website and in our written and oral communication, we are paying more attention to the welfare of both practitioners and notifiers by informing them of support services available.

We are working with Lifeline and other services, including through a new wellbeing and support program for all our staff, to ensure they are better supported and equipped to respond to distressed notifiers and practitioners.

More clinical input to the notification process

We have significantly increased our team of medical clinical advisers.

We recruited to these roles through open expressions of interest and were heartened by the number of practitioners keen to help us do the work that we do.

Our national network of medical clinical advisers now reviews every notification within their profession within a few days of receipt. We are rolling out a model of clinical advisers to the five professions with the largest volume of notifications. Clinical advisers help us to understand clinical issues associated with a notification before it is considered by a National Board.

Expressions of interest for clinical advisers have now been sought from other professions. In 2019/20 we will continue to embed clinical input as a cornerstone of our work.

Informing employer entities of regulatory action

Changes to the National Law in 2018 require a practitioner to tell us about their practice information when requested to do so. This change broadens the nature of information we can require. It now includes requirements to inform us of being self-employed; or working as an employee, contractor, or in a voluntary or honorary capacity. To help practitioners meet their obligations, AHPRA published the Guideline: Informing a National Board about where you practise (as an example, see the Medical Board's Codes Guidelines Policies).

These changes also mean that we are required to inform a broader range of practice entities of regulatory action taken.

Notifications received

This year, AHPRA received more notifications than we have ever received in a single year. A total of 9,338 notifications were received, 28.3% more than the number we received in 2017/18 (7,276 notifications) and 35.4% more than in 2016/17 (6,898 notifications).

Some of the increase arose from standardising the way we record complaints raised with a health complaints entity (HCE), assessed by AHPRA as required under the National Law and retained by an HCE. When we adjust the data to account for this standardisation, the adjusted increase was 14.3% (not 28.3%) more notifications than we received in 2017/18.

The percentage of all registered health practitioners with notifications made about them was 1.7%. This percentage was 1.6% in 2017/18 and 2016/17.

During the year we received 57 notifications about students.

Mandatory notifications

All registered health practitioners, their employers and education providers have mandatory reporting responsibilities under the National Law.

Immediate action

Interim action can be taken as a precaution when serious concerns are raised about a practitioner. These actions, called immediate actions under the National Law, protect the public while more information is obtained, or other processes conclude.

It is an interim measure that a Board takes only in cases where the Board believes there is a serious risk to the public or it is otherwise in the public interest to limit a practitioner’s registration while it seeks further information.

National Boards took immediate action on 384 occasions, which is 7.2% (30) fewer than in 2017/18. The proportion of notifications where immediate action was taken was 4.1% of the notifications received.

This is down slightly on previous years (5.7% in 2017/18 and 4.6% in 2016/17).

Investigations

Of the notifications finalised by a National Board this year, 68.1% were closed on assessment and did not require investigation (up from 62.6% in 2017/18).

The proportion of notifications that progressed from assessment to investigation was 29.6%, less than in previous years (33.1% in 2017/18 and 33.0% in 2016/17).

The decrease is, in part, due to changes to the National Law that provide National Boards with new decision options at the assessment stage.

In all, 2,859 notifications about 2,357 practitioners were referred for investigation. Deciding to investigate does not indicate that an allegation made in a notification is true. We investigate a practitioner when more information is necessary to make an informed risk assessment. A decision to investigate gives us power to require individuals to provide us with information.

During an investigation, information can be gathered from sources such as:

  • the person who raised their concern with the Board (the notifier)
  • the practitioner being investigated
  • clinical records
  • other practitioners who may have been involved in the care of a patient
  • witnesses (for example, family members, other patients or staff members)
  • experts (who provide independent opinions) or information from professional bodies
  • police reports, and/or
  • information from other sources such as pharmacy records, health insurance records or Medicare Australia data.

Outcomes and timeliness of notifications closed

We completed almost 26.4% more notifications than in 2017/18. This represents the highest number of closures (8,979) since the start of the National Scheme.

Of the notifications that were closed, 17.5% resulted in regulatory action against a practitioner.

As at 30 June 2019 there were 4,546 notifications currently being managed by AHPRA and remained open.

Nearly half of all notifications are closed in less than three months. The majority (68.2%) were completed in less than six months. This is an improvement on previous years (64.5% in 2017/18 and 64.9% in 2016/17).

Taking or defending legal action

AHPRA manages a range of regulatory litigation and associated legal services, including:

  • referrals to panels or tribunals arising from serious notifications
  • appeals from regulatory decisions
  • the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences under the National Law
  • the release of information, and
  • the provision of strategic legal advice.

Referring matters to an independent tribunal

There were 305 notifications open in the tribunal stage as at 30 June 2019, compared with 321 at the same time last year. Of the 174 notifications closed by tribunals in the year, 96% of matters resulted in some form of disciplinary action taken and in one matter the practitioner surrendered their registration. The tribunal decided to take no further action in just five individual matters, which is consistent with the previous year. A further two matters were referred to other regulatory entities. This demonstrates that the National Boards continue to appropriately identify the thresholds for referring a matter to a tribunal to protect the public.

Since 2010, all practitioners who have had their registration cancelled by a court or tribunal, been disqualified from applying for registration, or prohibited from using a specified title or providing a specified health service appear on the cancelled health practitioners register. See the Registers of practitioners.

We also publish summaries of tribunal outcomes.

All National Boards now publish links to disciplinary decisions by courts and tribunals on the public Register of practitioners where there has been an adverse finding about a registered health practitioner, unless a tribunal or court has issued a suppression order.

Referring matters to a panel to decide

A National Board has the power to establish two types of panels depending on the type of notification:

  • health panels, for issues about a practitioner’s health and performance, or
  • professional standards panels, for conduct and performance issues.

Under the National Law, panels must include members from the relevant health profession as well as community members. All health panels must include a medical practitioner. Each National Board has a list of approved people who may be called upon to sit on a panel.

Recruitment to the list of approved panel (LAP) members was carried out by National Boards during the year, and successful applicants were appointed for a three-year term starting 1 July 2019.

Of the 39 National Board matters decided by panels during the year, more than 75% resulted in some form of regulatory action being taken.

The National Law provides a mechanism of appeal to a tribunal against a decision by a National Board in certain circumstances, including decisions to:

  • refuse an application for registration or endorsement of registration, or to refuse renewal of registration or renewal of an endorsement of registration
  • impose or change a condition placed on registration, or to refuse to change or remove a condition imposed on registration or an undertaking given by a registrant, or
  • suspend registration or to reprimand a practitioner.

Decisions may also be judicially reviewed if there is a perceived flaw in the administrative decision-making process, as opposed to a concern about the merits of the individual decision itself.

There were 62 appeals lodged nationally about decisions made by National Boards. The number of appeals lodged annually has varied over recent years as follows: 62 appeals in 2018/19, 28 appeals in 2017/18 and 82 appeals in 2016/17.

The majority of these appeals related to the professions with higher regulatory decision volumes, such as medical practitioners (30), and nurses (15). There were 59 appeals finalised.

There were 45 appeals not yet decided as at 30 June 2019.

Criminal offences

  • 551 criminal offence complaints were received; 481 were considered and closed
  • 238 open criminal offence complaints were still under review as at 30 June 2019, a 25.9% increase compared with last year
  • 67% of all new criminal offence complaints related to alleged unlawful use of title and unlawful claims to registration
  • 153 new advertising complaints about corporate entities, unregistered individuals or serious risk advertising by registered health practitioners were received; 107 were closed
  • 15 prosecutions were completed in local courts for criminal offences under the National Law
  • All 15 completed prosecutions resulted in a conviction being recorded against the individual and/or corporate entity for a criminal offence/s

What are criminal offences under the National Law?

The National Law includes criminal offences which relate to conduct that can put individuals and the community at risk. Criminal offences may be committed by a person (including registered health practitioners and unregistered individuals) and/or corporate entities.

Criminal offences predominantly relate to title protection, unlawful claims as to registration, restricted acts, and advertising of regulated health services.

Up until 30 June 2019, offences under the National Law were summary offences and could be tried by a judge alone and penalties were limited to fines. From 1 July 2019, several offences have now become indictable offences and can be tried by a judge and jury. Indictable offences under the National Law have increased penalties including increased maximum fines and up to three years' imprisonment. Indictable offences can be heard summarily, which means that the offence can be dealt with by a judge alone in the Magistrates' or Local Court.

Moving to indictable offences

On 26 February 2019, the Queensland Parliament passed the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (Tranche 1A Amendments). In addition to amendments about the mandatory notification framework, the Tranche 1A Amendments have the effect that:

  • offence provisions have changed from being summary offences to being indictable offences, and
  • most offence provisions have increased fines from $30,000 to $60,000 and jail terms of up to three years per offence for an individual and for corporate entities increased fines from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence.

These Tranche 1A Amendments regarding the offence provisions and penalties began on 1 July 2019. The new offence provisions will apply in all states and territories, except Western Australia. The amendments to offence provisions do not apply to advertising offences. From 1 July 2019, the Statutory Offences Unit (SOU) was renamed the Criminal Offences Unit.

Criminal offences received and closed

AHPRA recorded 551 new offence complaints.

Most jurisdictions experienced a decrease in offence complaints received when compared with the previous year. Victoria and NSW continue to receive the largest number of offence complaints and this year accounted for 34% of all new offence complaints. These jurisdictions accounted for 38% of new offence complaints in 2017/18. (This percentage was incorrectly reported as 68% in last year’s annual report.)

Of the offence complaints received nationally, 67% related to concerns about alleged unlawful use of title and unlawful claims to registration. This year 481 offence complaints have been closed.

As at 30 June 2019, there were 238 criminal offence complaints under review, up from 189 at 30 June 2018, which is a 25.9% increase in open offence complaints.

Managing criminal offence complaints

Criminal offences are managed with a risk-based approach, focusing on protecting the public and ensuring the timely resolution of all complaints. All new offence complaints are risk assessed, and this dictates the course of action required to ensure public safety.

As required, serious-risk offence complaints are investigated by an inspector. This may include applying to the court for a warrant to search premises and seizing evidence.

AHPRA, in consultation with the relevant National Board, will prosecute offences against individuals and/or corporate entities where there is a legitimate public interest in doing so. See Prosecution guidelines.

Advertising requirements

We have published Guidelines for advertising regulated health services to help anyone advertising regulated health services to do so appropriately. In turn, AHPRA and the National Boards have published and implemented an Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy that outlines the risk-based management of offence complaints, particularly advertising complaints. Both documents are available on the AHPRA website, see Advertising guidelines and Legislation guidelines.

Prosecutions under the National Law

There have been several significant prosecutions this year that demonstrate the importance of the criminal offence function for the protection of the public.

AHPRA completed 15 proceedings in the courts for offences under the National Law across five jurisdictions. All prosecutions resulted in findings of guilt; and in all cases the individual or entity was convicted. These outcomes demonstrate that AHPRA continues to identify appropriate thresholds for referring offence complaints for prosecution to protect the public.

A further seven prosecutions are ongoing before the courts as at 30 June 2019.

Prosecuting criminal cases

The National Law creates certain offences which include (but are not limited to) restrictions on use of protected titles, unlawful claims to registration, restricted acts and unlawful advertising. AHPRA's published Prosecution guidelines outline that we will start a prosecution only where there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction, and the prosecution is in the public interest. Offences may be committed by a person (including registered health practitioners and people who are not registered) and/or corporate entities. The Criminal Offences Unit has a very important role in investigating and prosecuting offences under the National Law, as this type of conduct can put individuals and the community at risk. Some examples of cases successfully prosecuted before the courts in 2018/19 are set out below.

  • AHPRA successfully prosecuted Mr Raffaele Di Paolo and his company, Artemedica Pty Ltd, for offences including holding himself out as a registered medical practitioner and as a specialist health practitioner (gynaecologist and obstetrician). Mr Di Paolo had never been registered as a medical practitioner or in any other regulated profession and had never completed a medical degree or equivalent qualification. In August 2018, his company pleaded guilty to three charges of knowingly or recklessly holding out another person as a registered health practitioner by using the initials ‘MD’. The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria convicted and fined his company, and ordered he pay AHPRA’s costs. In September 2018, Mr Di Paolo was prosecuted in Southport Magistrates’ Court in Queensland for separate conduct. He was charged with three additional offences relating to using a specialist title and using words to indicate he was a registered medical practitioner when he was not. He was convicted, fined and ordered to pay AHPRA’s costs.
  • AHPRA prosecuted a counsellor, Mr David Citer, in the Local Court of New South Wales. The court convicted and fined the counsellor after finding him guilty of claiming to be a registered psychologist when he was not. This was the second time Mr Citer had been prosecuted for offences under the National Law. In sentencing, the court noted that there was a need to protect the community and denounce Mr Citer’s conduct in recognition of his breach of trust and the hardship he caused to his victim.
  • In Tasmania, AHPRA prosecuted a suspended physiotherapist, Mr Michael Dempsey, for holding out several persons as registered health practitioners, when they were not. In a landmark decision, the suspended practitioner was found guilty and convicted, and the court imposed the largest fine against an individual for offences under the National Law in Australia. To claim another person is registered when they are not is serious as it puts vulnerable people at risk and threatens patient safety.
  • AHPRA prosecuted Mr Majid Rahebi from New South Wales for falsely representing that he was a dentist and performing restricted dental acts. He was convicted and fined for offences under the National Law. Mr Rahebi’s company, MJ Dental Care Pty Ltd, was also convicted and fined for representing that Mr Rahebi was authorised or qualified to practise as a dentist. In this case, AHPRA worked closely with its regulatory partners in NSW to coordinate the best response so that the public was protected.
  • A New South Wales Local Court convicted Mr David Le for holding himself out as a registered pharmacist following charges laid by AHPRA. It was alleged that he had dispensed scheduled medications on numerous occasions, while his registration had been suspended by the Pharmacy Council of New South Wales. He was fined and ordered to pay AHPRA’s legal costs. When a pharmacist is suspended by a regulatory body, it is to protect the public. In this case, AHPRA took the step of prosecuting Mr Le, as his continued practice while suspended posed a serious risk to the health and safety of the public.
  • In a New South Wales Local Court, The Running Clinic (Australia) Pty Ltd (formerly trading as the Heel Clinic) pleaded guilty to 10 advertising offence charges. The company was convicted and fined for advertising which contained false, misleading and deceptive claims and statements about podiatry services on several of its websites and Facebook account. It was also found that some of the company’s advertising contained statements and claims that were likely to create an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment.

Monitoring restrictions on practitioners

  • 3,869 cases were being actively monitored at 30 June 2019 – these cases related to 3,826 registered practitioners
  • As at 30 June 2019, there were 89 restrictions (conditions or undertakings) in the National Restrictions Library
  • 515 new low-risk to moderate-risk advertising complaints about registrants were received under the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy

AHPRA monitors compliance

On behalf of the National Boards, AHPRA monitors health practitioners and students with restrictions (conditions or undertakings) placed on their registration, as well as those with suspended or cancelled registration. By identifying any non-compliance with restrictions and acting swiftly and appropriately, AHPRA supports Boards to manage risk to public safety.

Restrictions are placed on a practitioner’s registration through several mechanisms, including as an outcome of a notification, or when a practitioner applies for registration or renewal of registration.

Each monitoring case is assigned to one of five streams.

Health

A practitioner or student is being monitored because they have a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence).

Performance

A practitioner is being monitored to ensure they practise safely and appropriately while demonstrated deficiencies in their knowledge, skill, judgement or care in the practice of their profession are addressed.

Conduct

A practitioner is being monitored to ensure they practise safely and appropriately following consideration of their criminal history, or they have demonstrated a lesser standard of professional conduct than expected.

Suitability/eligibility

A practitioner is being monitored because they:

  • do not hold an approved or substantially equivalent qualification in the profession
  • lack the required competence in the English language, or
  • do not meet the requirements for recency of practice, or do not fully meet the requirements of any other approved registration standard.
  • Prohibited practitioner/student

    A practitioner or student is being monitored because they:

    • are subject to a cancellation order, suspension or restriction not to practise, or
    • may have surrendered their registration or changed to non-practising registration, as an outcome of a notification.

    This year, the number of active monitoring cases nationally decreased by 23.6%. The cases monitored by AHPRA relate to 3,826 (5,005 in 2017/18) individual practitioners and the majority were in relation to monitoring of eligibility/suitability requirements.

    All monitoring cases in the suitability/eligibility stream were reviewed this year when monitoring responsibility moved from the registration division to the compliance division.

    The primary reason for the significant reduction in cases monitored is because the majority of the 925 practitioners in the suitability/eligibility stream had limited and provisional registration with conditions imposed that duplicated the requirements in the relevant published registration standard Limited registration for area of need registration standard and Limited registration for postgraduate training or Supervised practice registration standard. These registration standards are available on the Medical Board's Registration Standards.

    The requirements imposed by the registration standards continue to be monitored by a team within the registration division.

    Improving our reporting capability

    Since the introduction of compliance performance reporting in 2015/16, we have continued our focus on managing risks associated with monitoring cases and identifying opportunities to improve the quality, timeliness and accuracy of our compliance work, including in reporting. Improvements have been made to our ability to report at the level of restriction categories for each compliance case.

    For the first time, we can report the top 10 restriction categories (5,534 restrictions) by volume monitored by AHPRA. Although 3,869 cases were being actively monitored by AHPRA, each case may have more than one restriction category requiring compliance by the practitioner.

    66.7% of restrictions imposed (3,689) in the top 10 restriction categories by volume were as a result of the routine process of a health practitioner obtaining or renewing registration with a National Board.

    33.3% (1,845) of the restrictions in the top 10 restriction categories by volume were imposed as a result of a finding made by a National Board, panel or tribunal about a practitioner’s health, performance or conduct.

    Top 10 restriction categories

    The top 10 restriction categories are:

    Restriction on practice and employment
    A requirement, imposed at registration or renewal, requiring the registrant to do or refrain from doing something in connection with their profession. This category would include practitioners who may only practise in certain locations, such as international medical graduates with limited registration working in a regulated area of need.

    Requirement for supervision
    A requirement, imposed at registration or renewal, requiring the registrant to do a certain amount of supervised practice. This restriction is often imposed where a practitioner is re-registering in the profession after an absence.

    Undertake assessment
    A requirement, imposed at registration or renewal, requiring that a registrant, at some point in the next registration period, undergoes an assessment of their performance in the profession.

    Undertake education
    A requirement that a registrant attends and completes a defined education course, training or up-skilling activity.

    Attend treating practitioner
    A requirement that a registrant attends treating health practitioners(s) for management of identified health issues.

    Restriction on scope of practice
    A requirement, imposed at registration or renewal, requiring a registrant to restrict the type of practice they undertake.

    Prohibition on practice
    A restriction category used to manage cases for registrants who are prohibited from practising, including a practitioner whose registration is suspended.

    Restriction on workplace location
    A restriction on the location or the position in which a registrant may practise their profession.

    Undertake CPD
    A requirement that a registrant complete a prescribed amount of continuing professional development activities.

    Restriction on work type
    A restriction on the type or manner of work a registrant may undertake.

    Expanding the National Restrictions Library

    In 2015, the National Restrictions Library (NRL) was launched. This is an important national resource and documents common restrictions (e.g. conditions on registration) used across the regulatory functions of the National Boards to support:

    • consistency in recommendations from AHPRA to the National Boards and delegates
    • consistency in the restrictions appearing on the national public register of health practitioners, and
    • a best practice approach to monitoring compliance with restrictions.

    A quality review of the NRL conducted last year was favourable in terms of improved efficiencies, and further work was done to improve consistency in the wording of restrictions. In addition, the NRL was expanded this year to include a new category of ‘suitability’ stream restrictions.

    Next year, a major review of all restrictions used in the NRL is scheduled, including a plain English review of the restriction text.

    Advertising compliance and enforcement

    AHPRA’s compliance and legal divisions manage the enforcement aspects of the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy. The advertising compliance team is responsible for the triaging of all offence complaints, the assessment of all advertising offence complaints and the ongoing management of low-risk and moderate-risk advertising complaints under this strategy.

    Responsible advertising is a professional and legal obligation. We recognise that most health practitioners want to comply with the law and their professional obligations, and we aim to make compliance as easy as possible.

    In 2018/19, 515 low-risk to moderate-risk advertising complaints about registrants were received under the strategy. In 2017/18, 820 low-risk to moderate-risk advertising complaints were received (incorrectly reported as 911 in last year’s report). The reduction of 37.2% in these types of advertising complaints received this year is likely the result of work we have done with one stakeholder, who previously made bulk complaints, and who has now stopped that practice.

    The data in 2018/19 confirm that nearly 50% of registrants become compliant in response to the initial letter about the advertising breach. The remainder become compliant when the imposition of advertising restrictions is being considered and the practitioner is issued with the show cause notice where each breach and its location is specified. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the strategy in educating practitioners about their professional obligations and ensuring timely remediation of inappropriate advertising for the benefit of the public. There were no instances of continued non-compliant advertising that required regulatory action through the imposition of advertising restrictions.

     
     
    Page reviewed 15/11/2019