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What is expected of Australia’s doctors? New code of conduct revealed


Matt Woodley


15/09/2020 4:09:52 PM

The Medical Board’s updated code will come into effect from October and includes new sections on vexatious complaints and social media use.

Graphic of multiple doctors
The non-legally binding document aims to lay out the principles that characterise good medical practice.

The Medical Board of Australia’s Good medical practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia sets out to describe what is expected of all doctors registered to practise medicine in Australia.
 
The non-legally binding document lays out the ‘principles that characterise good medical practice’ and ‘makes explicit’ the standards of ethical and professional conduct expected of doctors by their professional peers and the community.
 
Dr Michael Wright, Chair of RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform (REC–FHSR), told newsGP the code can support GPs to understand good medical practices and is particularly useful as a framework to guide professional judgement.
 
‘It’s not law, but it’s a series of guidelines to support GPs to better understand what expectations might be, in everything from professionalism to remembering that the duty of care to patients should always be the first concern,’ he said.
 
‘One of the most useful things from a GP perspective is that it says good patient care requires coordination between all health practitioners, and good medical practice involves facilitating the central coordinating role of the GP, and also advocating the benefits of a GP for people who don’t already have one [including other doctors].’
 
The RACGP was broadly supportive of the revised code when it was first released for consultation, but did highlight concerns with a clause that suggested doctors should acknowledge ‘the profession’s generally accepted views’ and inform patients when their ‘personal opinion and practice does not align with these’.
 
These concerns were taken on board and the relevant section now states that while there are ‘professional values that underpin good medical practice’, all doctors have a right to ‘have and express their personal views and values’.
 
‘The boundary between a doctor’s personal and public profile can be blurred,’ the code states.

‘As a doctor, you need to consider the effect of your public comments and your actions outside work, including online, related to medical and clinical issues, and how they reflect on your role as a doctor and on the reputation of the profession.’
 
Guidelines on social media use have also been included, as has a section covering the issue of vexatious complaints.
 
‘The RACGP has worked hard to highlight the importance of social media in terms of its potential to impact on patient confidentiality and privacy, and also impact on respect and professionalism between health providers,’ Dr Wright said.
 
However, GP requests for clarity regarding which health profession is responsible for following up results for tests or health services were not addressed.
 
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Dr Rodney Paul Jones   16/09/2020 2:44:25 PM

I note "age" gets a mention in conditions that should be looked out for in the code. Age is not an impairment to good medical practice, in fact, the reverse. It adds judgment balance and experience , context, and "big picture" to decision making


Dr Trevor David Hoffman   21/10/2020 5:31:25 PM

I respectfully agree with Dr RP Jones, and would add that AHPRA fails to appoint appropriate MBA members to Notification panels; I am a GP who dealt with a person who I reasonably expected to be drug seeking, but then reverted to her implausible badge of entry complaint, and was on 31 August 2020 disciplined by a board consisting of a haematologist who never deals with drug seekers, a medical administratrix who sees no patients at all, an academic contracts lawyer, and an RSPCA organiser. No GP, let alone anyone seeing drug seeking patients on a daily basis. Before I discovered their identities using FOI, AHPRA disingenuously assured me that these were appropriate to hear this disappointed patient’s complaint. How does AHPRA get away with such misconduct?