Myths of mandatory reporting

Getting a notification from the medical regulatory board is often stuff of nightmares for health professionals. The emotional distress, of what feels like such a personal complaint, can weigh heavily on our minds.

It can sometimes feel like we are guilty until proven innocent.

As we know, the medical regulating board exists to protect the public. However, this is in balance to protecting health practitioners as well. Well practitioners are in the best interest of the health system and our community.

Let’s dive into this tough subject and blow away some of these common myths.

This guide is for Australia.

Myth 1: If I admit I have a health issue, I’ll lose my job


The mandatory reporting requirements are clear. You only need to report health practitioners if you believe they are seriously impaired at work and a possible danger to the public.

Seeking help is a great thing and essential to keeping us as happy, healthy and thriving medical professionals. Ignoring our health issues until they become out of control is when we can end up in trouble.

For example, a doctor struggling with alcohol use but not drinking at work should not be reported. Seeking help for this alcohol use is vital, and all doctors need to feel safe in accessing confidential care.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Myth 2: Having a notification by Ahpra will end my career


While all reports to Ahpra must be investigated, the large majority of complaints (71%) end up with no action.

Only 0.4% lead to suspension or cancellation of medical registration. If any measures are put into place, the most common are letters to prove you are trying to improve your personal health and/or practice.

Myth 3: the complaint against me will be made public


The new law to allow publication of complaints with names has led to many health practitioners scared of being “named and shamed”. In reality, this measure will only be used if a practitioner is seriously risking the public and not taking action to change their practice.

Myth 4: I need to report a colleague if they are impaired in their personal life


You only need to report if you are worried that a practitioner’s work life is severely impaired and placing the public at risk.

If you’re considered making a report about a medical practitioner, please do this in discussion with another trusted colleague or your medical defence organisation.

When do I need to mandatory report?

  • practising while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • sexual misconduct in the practice of the profession
  • placing the public at risk of substantial harm because of an impairment (health issue), or
  • placing the public at risk because of a significant departure from accepted professional standards

Will I get in trouble if I don’t mandatory report?

For treating practitioners, caring for medical students or doctors, the threshold to report is extremely high.

For colleagues considering reporting the threshold is also high. Direct knowledge must be known that risks the public. It is not based on rumours or gossip.

Photo by taylor hernandez on Unsplash

I’ve been reported or a complaint has been made about me, what next?

  • It’s normal to feel anxious. It’s normal to feel it’s personal. But know that the majority of notifications are not actioned
  • Contact your medical indemnity, they often have 24/7 hotlines
  • Do not edit your notes
  • If you would like confidential psychological support contact:
  • Be kind to yourself, speak with a trusted loved one or colleague

For more resources click here.

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