Health & Aged Care News Alert: Should Practitioners Notify the Notifier?
In a recent matter in which we assisted a practitioner through a Medical Board Performance and Professional Services Panel (‘PPSP’) hearing and findings had been delivered, we received correspondence from AHPRA seeking the practitioner's consent to provide the notifier with an ‘informative notice’ about the outcome. No detail was contained in the letter as to what this ‘informative notice’ may contain. Having sought clarification we were advised that notifiers have expressed to AHPRA a level of dissatisfaction arising from the lack of information/outcome that they receive following the notification process. AHPRA are therefore looking at ways to remedy the situation within the limitations of the Act and have seized on section 216(2)(d).
Section 216 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (the Act), establishes the duty of confidentiality under which AHPRA must operate. Pursuant to the operation of sections 216 and 225 AHPRA cannot provide any information to a notifier if a practitioner receives a caution or where no adverse finding is made.
Under section 216(2)(d) a practitioner may consent to AHPRA disclosing information that would otherwise be confidential. We are advised by AHPRA that they are “in the practitioner’s hands” as to what information they might consent to release to the notifier. The suggested information ranges from disclosing only the outcome (perhaps with wording agreed between the practitioner and AHPRA) through to the release of the Medical Board’s reasons for their decision.
In circumstances where the Medical Board has decided to take no further action, it may be worthwhile for a practitioner to agree to release the decision so that the notifier is aware that their complaint had no substance. However, if a practitioner is issued with a caution then, it is our recommendation that practitioners do not voluntarily provide any information to the notifier. Advising a notifier that a caution was issued may give the notifier an incentive to seek avenues to further the complaint. The release of any information from the Medical Board’s reasons is nothing more than a “free-kick” to a potential plaintiff.
While notifiers may have legitimate concerns with regards to AHPRA’s process in managing the outcome of the Medical Board’s decisions, it is not the obligation of a practitioner to relieve this dissatisfaction. A caution is a serious finding against a practitioner however the Act clearly did not intend that this finding be made available to the public.
Cindy Tucker, Partner