4 July 2022

Name-shame amendments given green light

AHPRA Government Political Practice Management

A Queensland parliamentary committee has approved controversial changes to the National Law.


Complaints against GPs could be made public before an investigation is complete if amendments to the National Law are passed by Queensland’s parliament – as the state’s health committee recommended in a final report last week. 

The recommendation comes despite alarm from healthcare industry groups during an inquiry into the proposed changes. 

A ban on using patient testimonials – which have increasingly worried both medical and social media experts in recent months – would also go if the amendments package passes in its current form. 

But while Queensland’s health and environment committee supported removing the testimonials ban, it also called on state Health Minister Yvette D’Ath not to begin the process until an independent review of the regulation of health practitioners in cosmetic surgery was complete. 

The ban’s removal should also wait until guidelines and educational materials on the use of testimonials in health service advertising had been produced, the committee report said. 

Ms D’Ath introduced the National Law amendments bill in May, prompting strong objections to several of its measures by the RACGP, ACRRM, the AMA and other healthcare professionals’ groups. 

One such measure would give AHPRA, the national boards or the health ombudsman the power to issue a public statement about a health practitioner who was subject to an investigation or disciplinary proceedings.  

“I’m very concerned about the potential impact of some of the proposed amendments on practitioners,” RACGP president Adjunct Professor Karen Price said earlier in the year. “This could cause significant undue reputational damage that ruins careers and ultimately impacts on patient access to care.” 

The AMA’s Queensland branch said in a submission to the inquiry that unfounded or false accusations “would remain available, permanently, in the public domain, and a revocation by the regulator cannot effectively and practically correct the public record”. 

While the committee noted these “significant concerns” in the final report, it believed the powers proposed were “appropriate” and that the threshold for using them was high. Despite this, opposition committee members Rob Molhoek and Sam O’Connor said they also had reservations about the amendment. 

The amendment to ban the use of patient testimonials in advertising regulated health services also attracted widespread opposition during the inquiry.  

AMA Queensland was “concerned there are pockets of low health literacy and there are a large number of Australians who are vulnerable to manipulative messages – we believe that patient testimonials are exactly that sort of manipulative statement”. 

In its report, the committee said some prohibitions on testimonials would remain, including where the testimonial was likely to be misleading or deceptive or create “an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment”. The two Opposition committee members, however, also had reservations about this amendment. 

The bill, if passed, would further give national regulators a new power to issue interim prohibition orders (IPOs) that would prevent or restrict unregistered practitioners from providing health services. 

The RACGP argued this power could be unacceptably overused, with regulators able to apply unnecessary conditions to practitioners whose registration had lapsed through no fault of their own. ACRRM said IPOs would result in further bureaucracy, extending the period of uncertainty a GP would face. 

Queensland Health countered by arguing the measure allowed matters to be dealt with through disciplinary proceedings, providing an alternative to the current powers, which are limited to prosecuting the practitioner for an offence or waiting to impose conditions on the practitioner’s registration if they apply to renew it. 

Under yet a further amendment, national boards would be able to request information about a practitioner’s former practice arrangements if action is being taken against them. At the moment, when a board takes action, they can only request information from the practitioner about their current employer and arrangements. 

The RACGP said the lack of a show-cause process in this measure could unintentionally harm practitioners who were not at fault, while the AMA objected that the amendment did not clearly specify who is included within the meaning of a “practice arrangement” and “practice information”. 

Queensland Health responded that under the proposed amendments, disclosure would only be permitted if there was a link between the regulatory action taken and the practitioner’s previous practice. 

In a blistering dissenting report, One Nation committee member Stephen Andrew said the bill would give excessive executive power to AHPRA. 

“There is a negligible amount of transparency or accountability around [AHPRA’s] various activities, and the bill essentially hands it the power to do whatever it deems ‘necessary or convenient’ to safeguard a set of broadly drafted and undefined new ‘objectives’,” Mr Andrew said. 

“The amendments, moreover, contain no ‘right of reply’ for health professionals on evidence-based research and objective data.”  

If the bill is passed by Queensland’s single house of parliament, the amendments would automatically be applied in all states and territories that are part of the National Scheme. This excludes Western Australia, which must pass corresponding legislation, and South Australia, which must make regulations to apply the changes. 

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7 Comments on "Name-shame amendments given green light"

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Jay Somasundaram
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Jay Somasundaram
1 month 11 days ago

What about prosecuting and name-shaming false complainants.? Doctors are being increasingly threatened with complaints by patients if the doctor doesn’t agree to provide dodgy prescriptions and medical certificates. Complaints should be in the form of statutory declarations, and the regulatory authority should prosecute complaints that are demonstrably false. Let the justice system be balanced.

Simon
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Simon
1 month 12 days ago

We all want better standards and patient care, but this entrenched adversarial system gives unbalanced and hence unfair power to AHPRA.
The costs of administration are huge, and it’s very hard for practitioners to afford the cost and stress of the prolonged proceedings that are common place in the ecosystem of AHPRA.
Stephen Andrew’s comments are spot-on.
A move to the inquisitorial system used in Europe is long overdue.

Jay Somasundaram
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Jay Somasundaram
1 month 11 days ago

Yes. Evidence-based policy making please. AHPRA and insurance are growth industries, there is a corresponding increase in defensive medicine and practice costs, but is there a satisfactory return on patient outcomes?

drgliksman42
Guest
1 month 12 days ago
What is a Star Chamber to do when, despite its disregard for any semblance of the presumption of innocence, a standard of proof on a par with a coin toss, (wilful?) ignorance of the role of root-cause analysis in identifying and preventing the causes of undesirable outcomes, and a tendency to act ultra vires which is only held in check when on a rare occasion a doctor takes it to a real Court at his/her own expense, it’s own processes are so inefficient that it can take years for its coarse grinding wheels to reach a conclusion? Why of course,… Read more »
Fred Smith
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Fred Smith
1 month 12 days ago

It seems objections to this Bill from the prominent GP/Medical representative bodies go ignored. Is this because department of health/government don’t regard these bodies as being representative stakeholders, or is it that these bodies have no influence or clout? Perhaps both?

Balendran Ratnasbapathy
Guest
1 month 12 days ago

time for GPs to begin strike action

Paul Curson
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Paul Curson
1 month 12 days ago

GPs are self employed. Striking against your self is just plain masochism.

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