Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Protections for notifiers
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Protections for notifiers

Ahpra and the National Law provide protections to notifiers - including practitioners - who give us information about unsafe practice.

When a notification is made, the health practitioner who is making the report can ask that their identity as the person who made the complaint remain confidential. More information is available on our how to raise a concern page.

However, there are some limits on when this can be offered, and the extent to which confidentiality can be maintained (e.g. in some matters the practitioner may be able to figure it out).

There is also a distinction between being a ‘notifier’ and a ‘witness’. Ahpra and the National Boards cannot provide any guarantees that a confidential notifier will not be identified as a relevant witness, and be requested to provide a witness statement / have their identity disclosed to the practitioner in that capacity.

Section 237 of the National Law applies to a person who, in good faith, makes a notification under the National Law, or gives information to an investigator in the course of an investigation.

It also states that such a person is not liable, civilly, criminally or under an administrative process, for the giving of that information. This is deemed to include defamation, and professional regulation (i.e. it is not a breach of professional etiquette or ethics, or a departure from professional standards). However, section 237 does not protect a health practitioner from regulatory action in respect of their own behaviour.

As a health practitioner, you might also be a in a position to make a whistleblower disclosure under a relevant state or federal whistleblower protection scheme. Those schemes can be very complicated to navigate and comply with.

If a registered health practitioner is considering whether it is appropriate to make a whistleblower disclosure it is recommended that they seek legal advice before doing so. The practitioner should understand the nature of the protections afforded and how they differ from the protection provided by the ‘confidential notifier’ policy, and section 237.

If such a disclosure is being contemplated, the practitioner must also consider their obligation to make a mandatory notification to Ahpra.

Making a complaint to Ahpra and the National Boards does not provide the health practitioner, who makes the complaint, immunity from any regulatory action for their own behaviour.

The National Law requires certain types of behaviour to be managed in certain ways depending on the type of offending. This is core to our role in keeping the public safe and preventing future harm.

However, Ahpra and the National Boards understand the level of courage it takes, for a health practitioner to come forward and report a serious matter to Ahpra, in knowledge that they may also be subject to regulatory action.

If that practitioner is, for example, referred to a tribunal for their own behaviour then the level of insight a practitioner has shown will be a particularly relevant issue for the tribunal to take into account. One way to show insight is for the practitioner to show that they brought the conduct to the attention of the Board and they cooperated with the Board and its investigation (and/or another Board and its investigation).

Page reviewed 19/09/2023