The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed news that health practitioner investigations have fallen more than half but warned that the job is not over.
It comes following new figures revealing that Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) investigations involving medical practitioners that “relied on investigation powers” have fallen to 47 per month on average in 2023, a reduction of 59% compared to 2020 when the figure was 114 per month.
RACGP President Dr Nicole said that sustained RACGP advocacy was paying dividends once again.
“We are pleased that the Medical Board of Australia has taken our feedback on board,” she said.
“We’ve had significant concerns about the way complaints are looked into for many years, and we know how devastating the impact of a notification can be on GPs.
“When the process is drawn out without good cause, it creates even more unnecessary stress and administration at the cost of vital clinical work. These steps will mean more GPs who do not need to have an investigation hanging over their heads should be able to get on with their work at an earlier stage.”
Dr Higgins, who has recently discussed the issue of notifications the Chair of the Medical Board of Australia Dr Anne Tonkin, believes there are significant signs of improvement.
“We still have a long way to go before the notifications process works as it should – but there is no doubt the triaging process is helping, and I hope these reforms continue to have an impact,” she said.
Last year, a Senate inquiry recommended that AHPRA and the national boards analyse the reasons behind a “protracted” notifications process, as well as identify “ways to further improve timeliness”. AHPRA has stated that a program of work has been introduced to reduce the average amount of time to resolve notifications. It has given the example of a triage committee set up by the Medical Board of Australia in 2022 designed to resolve lower risk concerns more quickly.
A poll of 1,290 GPs conducted earlier this year revealed that 80% of respondents were subjected to what they felt was a vexatious complaint.
The RACGP submission to the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman’s review of the complaints mechanism highlighted the enduring impact misuse of the process can have. RACGP Vice President and Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett has spoken about his experience handling a trivial complaint.
RACGP spokespeople are available for interview.
About the RACGP
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.