Mandatory reporting for health professionals – WA exemption

Oct 13, 2014

Coinciding with the independent review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professions, Avant’s Head of Advocacy, Georgie Haysom has co-authored an article calling for the national adoption of a Western Australian (WA) exemption from mandatory reporting for treating practitioners.

Published in the Journal of Law and Medicine last month, the article ‘Mandatory reporting of health professionals: The case for a Western Australian style exemption for all Australian practitioners’1 argues that the WA exemption from mandatory reporting for treating practitioners be introduced nationally because doctors who are unwell need to feel they can attend their treating doctor without the fear of being the subject of a mandatory report.

Under the existing Health Practitioner Regulation National Law a health practitioner is legally obliged to notify Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) if, in the course of practising the first health practitioner’s profession, he or she forms a reasonable belief that another health practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes notifiable conduct.

The article also argues that doctors already experience many barriers when accessing health care and the current mandatory reporting provisions under the National Law may heighten barriers to health care access.The authors highlighted this issue especially in relation to the stigma around seeking health care for doctors with mental health issues.

In particular, the authors noted the results of Beyond Blue’s 2013 National Mental Health Survey of 12,252 doctors which revealed that over a third (34.3%) of participants were concerned that seeking health care could impact on their registration and right to practise.

“Even if mandatory reporting is a perceived barrier, it needs to be addressed to enable better health access… The Western Australia amendment removes this added perception, while maintaining the professional requirement to ensure patient safety,” the authors said.

Adopting the WA legislation nationally would also enhance health access for health practitioners which in turn would benefit patient safety, according to the authors.

“We believe strongly that to properly look after their patients, doctors need to look after themselves,” Ms Haysom added.

The article mirrors a key option proposed in a consultation paper released by the independent reviewer, of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for Health Professions which suggested introducing an exemption for health practitioners under active treatment from mandatory notifications nationally.

Avant has made a submission on the consultation paper representing its members’ interests.

A final report is expected to be delivered to health ministers in January 2015.

Reference

1. Hon Nick Goiran MLC, Margaret Kay, Louise Nash and Georgie Haysom, Mandatory reporting of health professionals: The case for a Western Australian style exemption for all Australian practitioners, Journal of Law and Medicine, 2014, 22: 209 – 220.

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