The following advice, on the importance of checking your health professional’s registration details, is provided by Pam Moore, a Consumers SA committee member and Centenary Medallist for her long-standing health advocacy work.  Pam writes:

In Australia we generally have excellent medical care and the vast majority of those who provide care, whether medical practitioners (either GPs or specialists), dentists, physiotherapists or similar professionals,are also of a high calibre.  

However, as with all aspects of life, there are some people (and some practitioners) who are of concern.  

The ABC’s 7.30 Report on Tuesday 9 July (https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/whistleblowers-say-medical-watchdog-ahpra-is-not/11293930) entitled “Whistleblowers say medical watchdog AHPRA is not investigating complaints properly”highlighteda case where a consumer received abusive care and reported it to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA).  The report detailed how AHPRA dealt with the complaint and concluded that the agency was “not doing its job properly and the health of Australians is at risk as a result.”  

This raises questions about health practitioners past conduct having an effect on the care that their patients currently receive.  

Consumers SA encourages consumers to check the registration of all their health professionals on the AHPRA web site using the following link:  https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Registration/Registers-of-Practitioners.aspx  

Simply search the practitioners’ surname (the other fields: such as given name, selection of health profession and state, are not usually required unless there are many practitioners with the same name). Once a practitioner’s registration is found, click on “view all details” to check on any information that may affect the care consumers receive. 

The search will reveal among other things:

·      Qualifications 

·      Conditions on practice

A National Board or an adjudication body can impose a condition on the registration of a practitioner or student, or on an endorsement of registration.  A condition aims to restrict a practitioner’s practice in some way, to protect the public. 

Conditions can be placed on a practitioner’s registration for disciplinary reasons, such as because a National Board has found that a practitioner has departed from accepted professional standards. 

Conditions can also be placed on a practitioner’s registration for reasons that are not disciplinary, such as for a practitioner who is returning to practice after a break.

Current conditions which restrict a practitioner’s practice of the profession are published on the register of practitioners. When a National Board or adjudication body decides they are no longer required to ensure safe practice, they are removed and no longer published. 

Examples of conditions include requiring the practitioner to: 

·      complete specified further education or training within a specified period 

·      undertake a specified period of supervised practice 

·      do, or refrain from doing, something in connection with the practitioner’s practice 

·      manage their practice in a specified way 

·      report to a specified person at specified times about the practitioner’s practice 

·      not employ, engage or recommend a specified person, or class of persons. 

There may also be conditions related to a practitioner’s health (such as psychiatric care or drug screening).  The details of health conditions are not usually published on the register of practitioners. 

·     Undertakings

National Boards can seek and accept an undertaking from a practitioner to limit the practitioner’s practice in some way if this is necessary to protect the public. The undertaking means the practitioner agrees to do, or to not do, something in relation to their practice of the profession. Current undertakings which restrict a practitioner’s practice of the profession are published on the register of practitioners. When a National Board or adjudication body decides they are no longer required to ensure safe practice, they are revoked and are no longer published. Current undertakings which relate to a practitioner’s health are mentioned on the national register but details are not provided. 

An undertaking is voluntary, whereas a condition is imposed on a practitioner’s registration. 

 ·     Reprimands

A reprimand is a chastisement for conduct; a formal rebuke. …

Note: The above 3 definitions are taken directly from the AHPRA web site. 

 If a medical practitioner has conditions and limitations this may affect the care received. Examples include:  medical practitioners not being able to prescribe strong pain killers or other drugs of dependence; not being able to do intimate procedures or always being required to have a chaperone present when seeing patients.  

 Unfortunately practitioners may be reluctant to freely provide this information themselves for fear of losing business.  

 Most practitioners will have no reprimands, undertakings or conditions.  However, if a practitioner does have any of the above, consumers have the right to know and this information can help with future care. 

If consumers feel uncomfortable or uneasy about the care they are receiving (and even if the AHPRA registration does not reveal any conditions or limitations) it is obviously best for them to go with their gut feelings and to change their medical practitioners.  If consumers feel their concerns are of a serious nature they can lodge a complaint with AHPRA.

I am aware of many examples where a consumer’s health care would be improved with knowledge of their practitioner’s conditions or limitations.  

One example was a person who had chronic severe pain for several years and was consistently told by their GP to take paracetamol only.  On checking the GP’s registration details I found that they included a limitation prohibiting that GP from prescribing drugs of dependence.  The consumer was advised of the GP’s limitations and this enabled them to find a new GP who could prescribe appropriate pain relief medication.  The reluctance of this GP to inform patients of this limitation caused unnecessary discomfort and stress to the patient for several years: in fact, the consumer’s pain made paid work impossible.

Pam Moore Consumer Advocate and Consumers SA ExecutiveCommittee Member

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis