RACGP broadly supports new medical code of conduct

Doug Hendrie

17/08/2018 3:39:45 PM

The RACGP is largely in favour of the Medical Board of Australia’s revised code of conduct for doctors.

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RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel praised the revised code’s retention of a section advocating the benefit of a regular GP to a patient who did not have one.

In a submission to the Medical Board of Australia, RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said the revised Good medical practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia largely reflects the college competency profile and curriculum.
The code of conduct describes expectations for all doctors registered to practice medicine in Australia, making clear the standards of ethical and professional conduct expected by their peers and the community.
Dr Seidel praised the code’s retention of a section advocating the benefit of a regular GP to a patient who did not have one.
He also supported new provisions aimed at discouraging medical practitioners from making vexatious complaints against other health professionals, and called for this provision to be replicated across every other code of conduct mandated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (AHPRA) national boards.
However, Dr Seidel did express some concerns in his submission. He called for the abandonment of a clause suggesting doctors should acknowledge ‘the profession’s generally accepted views and informing your patient when your personal opinion and practice does not align with these’.
‘The RACGP believes that the expectation that doctors must always acknowledge the profession’s generally accepted views and indicate when their personal opinion differs is unreasonable,’ he wrote. ‘The medical profession’s “accepted view” is not always a clear consensus, especially given the fast evolving nature of the medical environment.
‘[W]hile these changes may appear minor, even minor changes can have consequences for medical practitioners. This is particularly the case given that “serious or repeated failure to meet these standards may have consequences for [a doctor’s] medical registration”.’  
Dr Seidel said that RACGP members have expressed frustration about the fact the draft code does not clearly identify which health profession was responsible in following up results for tests or health services.
‘[E]xpectations of who is responsible for follow-up can become blurred – especially if the patient’s interaction with the secondary service is ad hoc,’ he wrote. ‘The code should explicitly outline that medical practitioners have responsibility for following up the health service they initiate.
‘This will ensure that GPs are not expected to follow up tests (or other services) that they may not be aware of. The code should also explicitly state that all test results and, in particular, clinically significant test results, are communicated to the patients regular GP.’  
Dr Seidel called for the code to include greater recognition of system and institutional influences on doctors, such as when health systems and rosters make it difficult for fatigued doctors to feel they could take days off.

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