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Changes to mandatory reporting obligations come into effect


Paul Hayes


2/03/2020 12:35:14 PM

The threshold for reporting a concern about impairment, intoxication and practice outside of professional standards has been raised.

GP on the phone with a concerned expression.
The threshold for reporting a concern has been raised, and is now reached when there is a ‘substantial risk of harm’ to the public.

The amendments apply in all states and territories, except Western Australia, and affect the mandatory reporting obligations for doctors who treat other health practitioners.
 
Specifically, the threshold for reporting a concern about impairment, intoxication and practice outside of professional standards has been raised, and is now reached when there is a ‘substantial risk of harm’ to the public.
 
This is a higher threshold than the previous requirement of at ‘risk of harm’.
 
‘Mandatory notifications are an important part of patient safety. We need to know when patients may be at substantial risk of harm from a registered health practitioner so that we can take action to protect the public,’ Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) CEO Martin Fletcher said. 
 
‘We also want to ensure that practitioners with health issues feel safe to seek treatment without fear of an unnecessary mandatory notification being made about them.’
 
The RACGP has worked with AHPRA to try to ensure supporting guidelines and resources are as clear as possible.
 
Many GPs had been concerned that the previous laws had acted as a deterrent to seeking help for legitimate mental health concerns, due to fears that mental health crises might constitute an impairment, which could threaten their careers.
 
‘If a practitioner has a health issue, that, on its own, is not grounds for a mandatory notification,’ Mr Fletcher said. ‘Substantial risk of harm to the public is a very high threshold and is not common.’
 
The guidelines were revised after the government amended the national laws governing health practitioner regulation early last year.
 
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon has warned that the revised guidelines will not solve all issues, particularly around mental health.
 
‘[D]octors are still going to be faced with that dilemma when they’re unwell – should they be going to see someone?’ Dr Nespolon told the ABC last year.
 
‘What we would like to see is go back to the West Australian model, where there is no requirement of mandatory reporting [by treating practitioners]. As far as we’re aware, there’s been no resulting issue with regards to patient safety.’
 
More information, including resources such as case studies and FAQs, can be found on the AHPRA website.
 
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AHPRA Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency mandatory reporting mental health



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