Changes to requirements for mandatory notifications have been introduced by The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Mandatory notifications are in place to protect patient safety by alerting AHPRA when patients may be at substantial risk of harm from a registered health practitioner. However the board’s consultation with health practitioners identified a level of confusion about when notification is and is not necessary. Some health practitioners were reluctant to seek help for fear of mandatory notification.
When a practitioner has a health issue, people want to know what is, and what is not, a trigger for a mandatory notification
The changes are as follows:
- The threshold for a mandatory notification by treating practitioners has been raised, so the circumstances for when they need to make a mandatory notification are more limited than for other types of notifiers.
- A mandatory notification by a treating practitioner about their practitioner-patient is now only required when there is a substantial risk of harm to the public. This is a very high threshold for reporting and will rarely apply.
- There is no change to the reporting threshold for when non-treating practitioners or employers or education providers must make a mandatory notification.
The changes have been supported by new resources that explain the very specific circumstances when a treating practitioner needs to report: when an impairment, intoxication at work or practice that departs significantly from accepted standards, places the public at substantial risk of harm. AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said the changes aim to encourage health practitioners to seek help about their health without fearing a mandatory notification.
“Healthy practitioners are good for patient safety. We want all registered practitioners to know what the changes mean for them and to seek advice and support for their own health and wellbeing, without fear of an unnecessary mandatory notification,” said Mr Fletcher. “
After listening to practitioners, we understand their fears about mandatory notifications and the changes to the legislation. When a practitioner has a health issue, people want to know what is, and what is not, a trigger for a mandatory notification,” he added.
“We want to work together, to address any confusion and create the culture and leadership needed to support practitioners and make mandatory notifications easier to understand. These resources aim to both ensure patient safety and support practitioner wellbeing.”
Medical Board of Australia Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin, said the resources aimed to reduce practitioners’ anxiety about mandatory notifications.
“Some practitioners are really worried about seeking care for a health issue, because of unnecessary concerns about mandatory reporting,” she said.
“I would hate any doctor to hesitate to seek help because of this worry. We only need to know about a practitioner’s health issue when there is a substantial risk to the public and this is very rare,” she added.
President of the Federal Australian Medical Association, Dr Tony Bartone said, “the health of our colleagues is, and will always be, of paramount concern. Any barrier to a doctor who is unwell seeking help must be overcome and should be a continuing focus for all of us. These resources will help to overcome some of the fear and confusion about mandatory reporting.”
The new resources are available on a hub on the AHPRA website and include a resource kit with two videos, social media posts and graphics that can be shared.