The Australian Health Practitioner's Regulation Agency (AHPRA) receives complaints (known as notifications) on behalf of 14 National Boards responsible for regulating various health professions. The Medical Board of Australia is one of those Boards. Other Boards include the Nurse and Midwifery Board, the Dental Board and the Psychologists Board.
Anyone can make a notification - patients, other practitioners or any member of the public, and it is possible for the notifier to remain anonymous. AHPRA can deal with notification on the following topics:
- Concerns about a health practitioner's professional conduct;
- Concerns about a health practitioner's knowledge of their area of practice;
- Concerns about a health practitioner's suitability in that profession (for example, that they are not a fit and proper person to be in their profession);
- Concerns about a practitioner's health if it affects their practice, for example if they have an addiction to substances that affect their practice;
- That the practitioner has, or may have, contravened the law, or conditions and undertakings placed on their registration;
- That the practitioner's registration was improperly obtained (i.e. they are not qualified to be in that profession).
What happens once AHPRA receives a notification
Once a notification is made to AHPRA, the notification must be referred to the relevant Board. In the case of a medical practitioner, the notification would be referred to the Victorian Board of the Medical Board of Australia for a preliminary assessment. This determines whether the notification relates to a matter the Board can deal with.
At the initial assessment, if the notification relates to something that the Board can deal with, the Board may decide either to take no further action, to refer the matter for investigation by AHPRA or to take immediate action.
In a minority of cases the Board will decide to take immediate action. This occurs when the practitioner poses a serious risk and it is necessary to take immediate action to protect the public. If immediate action is contemplated, AHPRA will notify practitioners and provide them with an opportunity to make both written and oral submissions. Usually the person making the complaint (the notifier) will also be informed of the Boards decision.
Once a decision regarding immediate action has been made, or in cases where no immediate action is taken, the notification can be referred for investigation. The practitioner's registration is not affected during the investigation. An AHPRA investigator is appointed to gather evidence and, once the investigation is complete, referred back to the Board for a decision. This process can take many months or even years.
The Board can then decide to dismiss the notification, refer the matter to a health or performance panel, or in more serious cases refer the matter to VCAT for a hearing.
If you have concerns over the conduct of a medical professional, we invite you to call (03) 9321 9988.