News

New mandatory reporting guidelines released


Doug Hendrie


7/02/2020 4:15:20 PM

The recently revised guidelines are expected to come into effect in every state and territory, except Western Australia, next month.

Worried GP at desk
Changes to the guidelines will raise the threshold of mandatory reporting for impairment, intoxication or breach of professional standards – but not for sexual misconduct.

The guidelines were revised after the government amended the national laws governing health practitioner regulation early last year.
 
Changes to the guidelines, released by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and National Boards, will raise the threshold of mandatory reporting for treating practitioners for impairment, intoxication or breach of professional standards – but not for sexual misconduct.
 
Once in place, mandatory reporting will only be required when the public is deemed at ‘substantial risk of harm’, a higher threshold than the old requirement of at ‘risk of harm’.
 
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.
 
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) CEO Martin Fletcher acknowledged the concerns in a video released last year.
 
‘We know many health practitioners have crippling fears about what [AHPRA] will do if we receive a mandatory report about health impairment, and we hear very distressing stories about health practitioners who are too afraid to seek help because they’re worried about being de-registered,’ he said.
 
‘These are the unintended consequences of mandatory reporting and this is a challenge for all of us, because all of us want to make sure health practitioners can get [the] care they need when they need it.’
 
But 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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