AHPRA takes steps to reassure practitioners who receive a notification

Matt Woodley

27/06/2019 3:23:41 PM

GPs are identified as a major source of help in a new AHPRA video aimed at reducing notification-induced anxiety.

Watching video
AHPRA has encouraged health professionals to seek help if they are stressed by receiving a notification.

The video features testimony from Far North Queensland GP Dr Catriona Arnold-Nott, who describes the anxiety she felt after receiving an Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) notification in 2017.
Dr Arnold-Nott said the drawn-out process was ‘very painful’ and stressful, especially when she didn’t hear anything from AHPRA for extended periods of time. However, she believes she would have dealt with it better had she asked for help.
‘If there was one thing I could do differently … I would go and talk to someone right at the beginning, because then I would have known I wasn’t alone,’ Dr Arnold-Nott said.
‘What I know now is that AHPRA manages complaints on a triaging basis in the same way we as health professionals do – and that is that the most serious things get dealt with first.
‘I wish I’d known that then, because I would have been worried less. The fact that it was taking such a long time should have been reassuring, but for me it just increased my anxiety.’
The stress became so much that Dr Arnold-Nott would cry every morning before work and second guess clinical judgements she was making throughout the day. Concerns about losing her ability to practise added to Dr Arnold-Nott’s apprehension about seeking professional help.
‘All the time that this was happening, I knew I wasn’t well,’ she said.
‘[But] I was afraid that I would be notified as being an unsafe practitioner, because now I was depressed. That fear kept me from seeking help when I knew I needed it.
‘As health practitioners we’re at increased risk of suicide and this is a time when that risk is even higher.’
Medical Board of Australia Chair Dr Anne Tonkin said the video reminds practitioners that, while potentially daunting, receiving support early in the process can make a big difference.
‘We hear again and again about the fear [practitioners] feel when they receive a letter from AHPRA,’ she said.
‘Yes, a letter can mean someone has raised a concern about their practice, but it doesn’t mean that their career is over. Many health practitioners may at some stage have a concern raised about them to AHPRA, their employer or another health complaints organisation.
‘We understand this can be a daunting experience. We encourage all practitioners to seek the support they need to be healthy at all times – and this is particularly important during a notification.’
Dr Arnold-Nott eventually saw her GP when she realised she was still spending a large amount of time thinking about the notification, despite the fact the process had run its course.
‘It’s completely normal for a notification like this to make health practitioners feel completely miserable. Angry, frustrated, anxious depressed – these are all normal responses to getting an AHPRA notification,’ she said.
‘When I went and saw my GP at last and [told] him the story of that 12-month period, [it] was so relieving for me and allowed me to clear it all out of my head.
‘Talking to my GP was intensely therapeutic.’

AHPRA mental health notification

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Chris D Hogan   28/06/2019 9:18:55 AM

It is about time that regulatory organisations accepted that there is potentially severe impact from delays in attending to complaints against practitioners.
Not only is justice delayed justice denied but even if they are exonerated I understand that most such practitioners either significantly limit their scope of practice , rapidly bring forward their retirement or leave General Practice

Elizabeth Martin   28/06/2019 9:52:48 AM

Thank you Catriona for talking about this and sharing your experience. The more we talk about this, the less alone, vulnerable and distressed doctors will feel going through this process.

Tee   29/06/2019 8:04:36 AM

Ahpra are nothing but a bunch of bullies. Supporting the other bullies in the health care system. I've been a nurse for 20 years and nothing positive has ever come from any one who receives a notification. Nurses are suiciding over these things.. They make an assumption on their findings regardless if the nurse is actually at fault..

Gloria   30/06/2019 2:26:44 PM

I have just endured 2 years of AHPRA because of an incompetent co-worker who tried to throw me under a train for their unprofessional behaviour. I was already on antidepressants but I am fortunate to have a GP who supported me. When dealing with AHPRA you are already guilty until you prove your innocence. I actually had two notices against me from the same person. AHPRA couldn’t see that they were using the system to get revenge. I used all my savings to go to the Health professional tribunal to fight the latest notification and now I’m waiting for their decision. I had been a nurse for 35 years without one complaint. Within a year and a half I had two lodged against me by the same person. Even when I mentioned this person was under investigation by the government for their poor behaviour my word meant nothing but everything they wrote belonged with the Ten Commandments. There needs to be a serious restructure of APHRA.

Joe   15/09/2019 6:39:29 AM

The way the setup works with AHPRA or the Medical Board is that anyone (the public) can throw an allegation (rightly, wrongly or misunderstandingly). “We need to protect the public” is the motto, which effectively means the health professional will be put under the spotlight to “prove innocence” or will be given conditions. How can anyone really prove innocence in a quick and snappy manner? And aren’t doctors/nurses part of the “public” as well, and if so why isn’t AHPRA/MBA protecting the health professionals as much as the people making the complaints?

Then there is the trend of the polite doctors who say to patients “sorry we don’t give out meds for chronic pain/benzos/substance X (where we might be punishable by the health regulators), please see someone else for that”. These trendy doctors are getting applause by AHPRA/MBA for not getting complaints, whilst the people receiving complaints are mostly the ones doing the tough stuff.

This to me is the heartbreaking reality.