RACGP President expresses concerns about changes to register of practitioners

Amanda Lyons

29/03/2018 12:10:14 PM

Dr Bastian Seidel does not believe the Medical Board of Australia’s changes to the register strike the right balance between patient safety and practitioner privacy.

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Dr Bastian Seidel has questioned whether the additions to the register will reduce already low rates of disciplinary action against practitioners.

The Medical Board of Australia (the Board), with the support of the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA), has added links into the national Register of practitioners regarding disciplinary decisions made in relation to individual medical practitioners from February 2017.
These additions to the register are part of a commitment by the Board and AHPRA to reform their management of sexual misconduct cases, and are the implementation of the final recommendation of the Chaperone Review report, an independent investigation into the use of chaperones in consults with practitioners under investigation for sexual misconduct.
‘This change will not affect the vast majority of doctors who routinely provide high-quality, safe care to their patients,’ AHPRA chief executive officer Martin Fletcher said. ‘But it will give the community easier access to information that is already public, so they can make an informed decision about their medical care.’
However, RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel told newsGP that while he is committed to accountability in all aspects of the health system, he is concerned the changes to the register may not be as helpful to patients as suggested, and may even have adverse impacts on practitioners.
‘Not all disciplinary decisions are the same,’ he said. ‘Many patients may find it difficult to assess the seriousness of the decision, which can adversely impact upon the doctor’s reputation and career without compromising patient safety and quality of care. This is a potential risk.’
Dr Seidel would like to see any such regulatory decisions supported by strong research before implementation, which he believes will help to ensure they do not have unintended and detrimental consequences.
‘The long-term implications of regulations – an example of recent years is mandatory notification of medical practitioners – has the potential to have adverse impacts upon patient safety outcomes,’ he said.
Dr Seidel further emphasised the low rate of disciplinary action against practitioners, and questioned whether the additions to the register will reduce these numbers.
‘When you consider the number of disciplinary hearings against the more than 100,000 medical practitioners in this country, the number of complaints is low,’ he said.
‘Ethical issues arising with doctors are always complex, difficult, with a series of causes that are often difficult to assess. The impacts of this regulation on ethical transgressions will need to be evaluated.’

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