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Changes to mandatory notifications requirements in effect 1 March

Photo: Changes to mandatory notifications requirements in effect 1 March
Amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) requirements on mandatory notifications came into effect on 1 March 2020.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and National Boards believe that it is important all health practitioners understand what the changes mean, and to encourage them to get the help and support they need.

The amendments apply in all states and territories except Western Australia and affect the mandatory reporting obligations for treating practitioners. Treating practitioners are registered health practitioners who treat other health practitioners as patients.

The threshold for reporting a concern about impairment, intoxication and practice outside of professional standards has been raised. The threshold is now reached when there is a substantial risk of harm to the public.
‘Mandatory notifications are an important part of patient safety. We need to know when patients may be at substantial risk of harm from a registered health practitioner so that we can take action to protect the public’ Ahpra CEO Mr Martin Fletcher said.

‘We also want to ensure that practitioners with health issues feel safe to seek treatment without fear of an unnecessary mandatory notification being made about them. If a practitioner has a health issue, that, on its own, is not grounds for a mandatory notification,’ he added.

‘Substantial risk of harm to the public is a very high threshold and is not common,’ he said.

The proportion of mandatory notifications made to National Boards and Ahpra is small. Data from 2018/19 shows that out of a total of 15,858 notifications made across Australia, only 11% were mandatory notifications.

Less than 3% of notifications were concerns about an impaired practitioner. The remainder of the mandatory notifications related to other notifiable conduct such as intoxication, sexual misconduct or substandard practice.

To help explain the requirements and raise awareness, Ahpra has released a range of information materials to both ensure patient safety and support practitioner wellbeing.

Medical Board of Australia Chair Dr Anne Tonkin said the resources aimed to reduce practitioners’ anxiety about mandatory notifications.

‘Some practitioners are really worried about seeking care for a health issue, because of unnecessary concerns about mandatory reporting,’ Dr Tonkin said.

‘I would 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 is a substantial risk to the public and this is very uncommon,’ she said.

Chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, Associate Professor Lynette Cusack, said that the vast majority of health practitioners can seek advice and help for any health issue they may have without fear of a mandatory notification.

‘As the regulator, we want to bust the myth that a practitioner will lose their registration just for seeking advice about their own health. If a health issue is being managed well, then neither the Board or Ahpra need to be notified. Australia’s 411,216 nurses and midwives should feel safe to take care of our own health in the same way other Australians do,’ she said.

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