Senate Inquiry

The Community Affairs Reference committee’s inquiry into the complaints mechanism administered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law tabled its report in the Senate on 10 May 2017.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here

A shorter summary of the report prepared by CAA National can be downloaded here.

A copy of the CAA National submission (March 2017) by can be downloaded here.

Key points

The CAA National submission to this inquiry in March 2017 focused on the following issues:

  1. The current complaints system should be a single consistent system for dealing with complaints about practitioners;
  2. There should be appropriate peer review during the assessment and investigation phase of the notifications process;
  3. Clarification is sought about AHPRA’s remit to involve itself in complaints about practitioners which touch on their scope of practice;
  4. The CAA is opposed to the formation of a single Health Professions Board to manage the regulatory functions of the nine low-regulatory-workload professions; and
  5. Advertising guidelines should be reviewed to ensure they are much clearer about the expectations on practitioners.

Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Report

The committee notes that the failure to provide the information and transparency that both practitioners and notifiers deserve has led to a loss of confidence in the complaints process.

The committee also acknowledged concerns raised by health practitioners about vexatious notifications. Nevertheless, independent evidence received by the committee did not suggest that vexatious notifications were a widespread issue; rather, they appear to be relatively infrequent. The committee recommended however that AHPRA and the national boards develop and publish a framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious complaints.

The committee also recommended that AHPRA and the national boards institute mechanisms to ensure appropriate clinical peer advice is obtained at the earliest possible opportunity in the management of a notification.

The committee also noted concerns that AHPRA's staff are not aware of key guidelines and policies that relate to notifications and the assessment process, including guidelines issued by specific national boards. Chiropractors that submitted to the inquiry were very critical of AHPRA's guidelines on advertising and its staff's knowledge of them. The committee pointed to the CAA submission noting that a high proportion of notifications made about chiropractors to the Chiropractic Board of Australia were related to advertising concerns. Confidential submitters to the inquiry expressed apprehension that: actions of AHPRA were at times inconsistent with the National Law; the guidelines issues by the national boards were unclear; and AHPRA employees were not cognisant of critical aspects of the national board's guidelines.

The committee noted a suggestion by the CAA that AHPRA and the national boards have a more active role to play in educating practitioners on advertising regulations under the National Law, prior to an assessment being initiated.

The committee recommended that AHPRA conduct additional training with staff to ensure an appropriately broad understanding of the policies it administers and provide staff with ongoing professional development related to the undertaking of investigations.

If there are changes to the complaints mechanism administered under National Law arising out of this report, we believe these will be minimal and incremental. CAA National will continue working with AHPRA and the Chiropractic Board of Australia to educate members about the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.