Ensuring patient safety: Chaperone report released

Ensuring patient safety: Chaperone report released

In the wake of accusations against Dr Andrew Churchyard, former neurologist at Cabrini Health and Monash Health, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Medical Board of Australia commissioned an independent review into the effectiveness of chaperoning restrictions in keeping patients safe. The report entitled 'Independent Review of the Use of Chaperones to Protect Patients in Australia' by Professor Ron Paterson, was released publicly today. Prof Paterson has recommended a number of reforms to the use of chaperones in response to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of doctors. Most notably, Prof Paterson recommends the use of interim chaperones be abolished, in favour of more protective measures such as gender-based restrictions to practice or suspensions. The recommendation comes after Prof Paterson found that chaperones offer little if any protection to the public, are inappropriately implemented given the need for trust and informed consent in a therapeutic relationship, and are wholly inappropriate in some situations. The report also calls for especially trained staff to handle the sexual misconduct allegations within AHPRA and the Medical Board of Australia, as well as calling for more information about a practitioner's past investigations to be made publicly available in AHPRA's register of practitioners. If chaperones are to be continued to be used, the report calls for chaperones only to be used in exceptional cases, such as those concerning doctors without any prior similar allegations, involving a single patient where the nature of the allegations, if proven, would not amount to a criminal offence. If they are to be imposed, chaperoning duties ought to be carried out by independent chaperones, appointed and trained by the Medical Board of Australia and who would be provided with full details of the allegations made against the doctor. Patients would also be informed of the need for a chaperone, the reason why they are needed and full details of the allegations. Dr Andrew Churchyard committed suicide after being committed to stand trial for assaults against his former patients. Adviceline Injury Lawyers represents a number of former patients currently seeking compensation from Dr Churchyard's estate. We welcome the recommendations made by Professor Paterson, and in particular echo the report's warning that chaperones do little to protect patients against predatory practitioners. Protecting the public must be the Medical Board's first priority.

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