AHPRA will stop publishing links to legal cases on the public register where there are no adverse findings against a practitioner, in what it calls “a balance between transparency and fairness”.
The AMA welcomed the policy reversal, which came after an outcry by doctors and medical defence organisations, but says it will press the regulator for further action to assure fairness for medical practitioners.
“It’s a minimum first step at this stage, but we welcome it,” AMA President Dr Tony Bartone told The Medical Republic.
The Melbourne GP said AMA leaders had lobbied in writing and in person to have the policy overturned.
“We still have ongoing concerns and we will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of our members on the other issues, which we can summarise as being inconsistent and incongruous with other aspects of the judicial framework when it comes to fairness,” Dr Bartone said.
The policy of attaching links to court and tribunal decisions to AHPRA’s public register of practitioners, regardless of whether there had been an adverse finding against them, was adopted in March.
The leading MDO, Avant, criticised the practice, saying it would confuse the public and prolong the distress of doctors who had been caught up in legal matters and cleared.
Avant’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Penny Browne was mobbed by concerned doctors after she spoke out against the policy at the AMA’s National Conference in May.
“A finding made many years before, that has no relation to the doctor’s current practice or conditions, will remain linked to the AHPRA register in perpetuity,” she told delegates.
“Imagine that you or I have been through the stress of a tribunal hearing and finally the findings state ‘allegations not proven’. It’s all over.
“You then try to move on with your life and later discover that the link to the decision is placed against your name on the AHPRA register with a subscript stating ‘allegations not proven’.”
Dr Browne today welcomed the reversal, saying many thousands of concerned doctors across the profession had rallied to sign online petitions against the disclosure policy.
“Health practitioners’ rights, health and well-being should not be forgotten, but central to the development of health regulation,” Dr Browne said.
She commended the work of Dr Steel Scott, a Victorian radiologist, and others who were instrumental in the protest campaign.
Dr Scott’s online petition against the disclosure policy drew 16,640 in a few weeks.
“Without the support of our signatories (regardless of speciality), and our wider community, this result would not have occurred,” he said at the weekend.
“This petition clearly demonstrates that the medical community as a whole needs to urgently strive for greater political representation.”
Announcing AHPRA’s reversal on Friday, Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, Dr Joanna Flynn, said the decision to modify the policy “struck a good balance between transparency and fairness”.
Dr Flynn said the Medical Board had decided to introduce links to public tribunal decisions, in the interests of transparency and on the recommendation of the Chaperone Review commissioned by AHPRA.
“It has changed its position after listening to advice from many doctors and other stakeholders that this was not fair when no adverse finding had been made about the doctor,” she said in a statement.
‘This maintains community access to important public information that will help patients make informed decisions and is fair to doctors.”