29 July 2022

New system to halve AHPRA complaint turnaround time

AHPRA AMA Political

At the AMA national conference, the chair of the Medical Board promised that this time it would be different.

AHPRA’s long-awaited initiative to handle vexatious complaints is finally here, with a new promise to get unsubstantiated or frivolous notifications out of the system within six weeks.

Medical Board of Australia chair Dr Anne Tonkin told delegates at the AMA national conference today that the regulatory agency had just set up what it’s calling the national committee triage.

“It will be seeing these very low-level notifications, which carry a very low risk, at a very early stage in their journey through our system,” she said.

“It will very quickly and very efficiently close those notifications which need no further action and get them out of the system.”

Dr Tonkin said the committee should be able to process vexatious complaints “within four to six weeks” – rather than three months – and that the overall notification turnaround times at AHPRA “will start to decline dramatically”.

This is not the first time Dr Tonkin and the board have promised such a scheme.

She also urged doctors to trust the board’s judgment.

“I really think we should be kinder to ourselves in the [vexatious complaint] process and think, ‘actually, I trust the board and they’re not going to do anything about this because it’s nothing’,” Dr Tonkin said.

“Now I know that’s a pretty impossible thing to ask, but I think the punishment is the stress sometimes.”

Often, she said, doctors will spend three months feeling awful, only to receive a letter saying that the board wasn’t going to take any further action.

Dr Tonkin also addressed the motion from AMA Victoria to call for a Royal Commission into AHPRA.

“I think it’s worth noting that the Medical Board and AHPRA together are probably one of the most scrutinised agencies that exist in Australia,” Dr Tonkin said.

“We’ve had 15 reviews, either federal or state, in 12 years of existence and we devote a lot of our resources to responding to those, which takes us away from trying to improve our systems and takes us away from doing our routine work.”

AMA members will vote on whether to formally progress the motion this weekend.

Chair of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges and current RANZCOG president Dr Vijay Roach used his time at the opening plenary to call for more respect for colleges.

“Many of the so-called [exam technology] failures were due to external providers, internet outages, and insufficient staff,” he said.

“I’m not saying that in a defensive way, but more to recognise that for colleges as institutions, this was a particularly difficult time.”

Dr Roach said colleges were often given a hard time by grassroots members constantly asking what their membership fees pay for, when often a lot of advocacy work occurs behind the scenes.

“I sometimes think of the college like my parents – they’re very annoying, they can’t manage technology and I feel like I have to sort everything out for them,” Dr Roach told delegates at the AMA conference.

“But every now and then, I pause and I acknowledge their wisdom, their commitment, their deep knowledge and their understanding and in fact my own limitations.

“I am grateful for them. And I am a little less arrogant and a little less critical.”

Medical colleges, he said, would emerge from the pandemic stronger, more nimble and more responsive.

The 2022 AMA National Conference runs over three days, with a new president to be elected by members on Sunday July 31.

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3 Comments on "New system to halve AHPRA complaint turnaround time"

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Dr Ashok Kumar Gupta
Dr Ashok Kumar Gupta
10 days 5 hours ago
I will like honorable Dr Tonkin to look at my case & complaint was Made in July 2017 I am not sure how i can get the Opportunity to have my Say & I will be more than happy to discuss the Complaint made against me & after 5 years I am still Under Punishment of AHPRA & working under GBR conditions . My Case Hearing by the AHPRA tribunal must go in the history . I am ready to talk to any one Dr Tonkin delegates . I will not bring any Lawyer. I am quite intelligent to present… Read more »
13 days 11 hours ago
I was at the AMA National Conference session and heard Dr Tonkin speak. For a body to promise this reform (for the second time) while spending much of the past decade denying the existence of vexatious, frivolous or intimidatory complaints, while weaponising them with its inefficient, arguably biased, and drawn out investigations represents IMO the height of hypocrisy. Her observation that: “I think it’s worth noting that the Medical Board and AHPRA together are probably one of the most scrutinised agencies that exist in Australia,” and “We’ve had 15 reviews, either federal or state, in 12 years of existence and… Read more »
13 days 11 hours ago

Problem is once there is an update you have to wait ANOTHER WEEK to communicate with the contact person being they are available only weekly. And after that then see you NEXT WEEK. Imagine that for a system that seeks to reduce error! get more staff if you think the job you are doing is worth it.