“We need to know when patients may be at substantial risk of harm from a registered health practitioner,” the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) said this week.
The AHPRA media release forms part of the preparations being made for changes to the law about mandatory notification requirements that will take effect in early 2020. It also reminds healthcare practitioners (HCPs) the notifications are an important part of patient safety.
AHPRA said it wanted to ensure HCPs with health issues feel safe to seek treatment without fear of an unnecessary mandatory notification being made about them, and reminded them that a practitioner with a health issue, on its own, doesn’t require a mandatory notification.
AHPRA and the national boards regulating Australia’s HCPs have also produced new resources to explain mandatory notifications, including when they do, and do not, need to be made. The resources also support practitioners in understanding the new changes to the law.
“Healthy practitioners are good for patient safety,” AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said. “We want all registered practitioners to know what the changes mean for them and to seek advice and support for their own health and wellbeing, without fear of an unnecessary mandatory notification.
“The resources explain that there are very specific circumstances when a treating practitioner needs to report: when an impairment, intoxication at work, or practice that departs significantly from accepted standards places the public at substantial risk of harm.”
Mr Fletcher said it had been essential to hear directly from treating HCPs, to understand their concerns and address barriers to people seeking help when they need it.
“After listening to practitioners, we understand their fears about mandatory notifications and the changes to the legislation,” he said. “When a practitioner has a health issue, people want to know what is, and what is not, a trigger for a mandatory notification.
“We want to work together, to address any confusion and create the culture and leadership needed to support practitioners and make mandatory notifications easier to understand. These resources aim to both ensure patient safety and support practitioner wellbeing.”
Medical Board of Australia Chair Dr Anne Tonkin said the resources were aimed at reducing practitioners’ anxiety about mandatory notifications.
“Some practitioners are really worried about seeking care for a health issue, because of unnecessary concerns about mandatory reporting,” she said.
“I’d hate any doctor to hesitate to seek help because of this worry. We only need to know about a practitioner’s health issue when there’s a substantial risk to the public, and this is very rare.”