AHPRA has signed its first information-sharing arrangement with a state police force through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Victoria Police.
The arrangement will see the police give AHPRA the heads up if they are concerned about a doctor’s health or conduct, including substance dependence.
In turn, AHPRA will pass on allegations or evidence of a doctor committing a serious crime, including murder, assault, possession of pornography or illegal drugs, engaging in conduct that deceives or exploits people, and sexual offences, such as non-consensual sexual contact and inappropriate touching.
The MoU formalised a pre-existing information-sharing relationship between the two bodies, and set out a “clear process to enable timely sharing when we identify relevant information”, a spokesperson for AHPRA said.
“It also clarifies for both parties the nature of information that can be shared and what we need to do to ensure that information is transmitted, stored, used and disclosed appropriately,” the AHPRA spokesperson said.
The police intended to use the information to investigate criminal offences, while AHPRA would use it to protect patients, a spokesperson for Victoria Police said.
“This MoU has many benefits for both our organisations and the public, for example being able to share information that would avoid a situation where a witness has to give two separate statements, one to AHPRA and one to Victoria Police.”
When asked if Victoria Police would report domestic violence investigations to the medical regulator, the spokesperson replied: “Victoria Police’s reporting … depends on the circumstances and its legal obligations. If there was any imminent danger of violence to patients, Victoria Police may report it to AHPRA.”
The MoU was a direct response to the outcome of the Chaperone Review in April last year, which recommended that AHPRA write to all police departments in Australian states and territories to establish clear inter-agency protocols.
“The report stated that where there are allegations of indecent or sexual assault there needed to be greater clarity,” the AHPRA spokesperson said. “This included whether AHPRA contacts the police or relies on the person making the complaint to do so.”
The Chaperone Review also found that it was important for AHPRA to be kept aware of developments in police investigations.
“[These investigations] may trigger the need to review risk and take immediate action on a registered health practitioner’s ability to practise their profession,” the AHPRA spokesperson said.
AHPRA has approached a number of police forces around the country with a view to formalising similar cooperative arrangements.