AHPRA begins linking to doctors' tribunal decisions on register

Jun 19, 2018

AHPRA and the Medical Board of Australia are now in the process of including links to published disciplinary decisions and court rulings on the Register of Practitioners. If a doctor has a complaint from a patient resulting in a tribunal hearing, a link to the published decision will be permanently included on a doctor’s entry, regardless of the outcome (unless the decision is solely about a practitioner’s health impairment).

The background to this decision is the report by Professor Ron Patterson into the use of chaperones in sexual misconduct matters released in April 2017. One of the recommendations was that the AHPRA public Register of Practitioners should include on individual practitioner entries web links to published disciplinary decisions and court rulings about that practitioner. This recommendation was not limited to sexual boundary issues but all judgments going as far back as 2010. Health impairment decisions and decisions of the NSW Professional Standards Committee will not be included.

Dr Penny Browne, Avant’s Chief Medical Officer, presented at the AMA conference on this issue. It was clear that many at the conference, while not directly impacted by this decision, were concerned about the impact this will have on the individuals involved. In addition, concern was expressed at the conference about the broader implications of the decision, including moves to include even more detail on the register.

While the Board maintains this decision has been made in the interests of transparency and maintaining confidence in the regulator, we believe it is unfair and punitive, particularly for practitioners with no adverse findings against them. The Board has indicated that “no adverse finding” will be noted on the register in relevant cases, but we are concerned this will be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

The risk is that allegations will be given more weight than the findings, further exacerbating the impact on practitioners including possible reputational damage and adversely impact health and wellbeing.

Internationally, there is a move towards placing more, not less, information about practitioners on medical registers in the name of transparency. We expect the broader issue of how much information should be on the register will continue to be debated.

Update: On 27 July 2018 the Medical Board announced it would remove links on the practitioners' register to court and tribunal decisions where no adverse finding was made against the practitioner. See Avant's statement on the decision.