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What To Do When A Notification Has Been Made To AHPRA About Your Conduct As A Health Practitioner

Potts Lawyers > Disciplinary Law  > What To Do When A Notification Has Been Made To AHPRA About Your Conduct As A Health Practitioner

What To Do When A Notification Has Been Made To AHPRA About Your Conduct As A Health Practitioner

What are notifications under the National Law?

A notification made to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) against a health practitioner is an expression of concern about the health practitioner’s conduct or fitness to practice.   A notification is usually made by members of the public, or in some cases health practitioners are required to make mandatory notifications in specific circumstances.

A notification may result in an investigation by AHPRA, which could lead to a finding that the practitioner has engaged in conduct which is unsatisfactory, unprofessional, or in the most serious instance, misconduct.  In these cases, the health practitioner who is subject to such a finding could be subjected to conditions, or could see their registration being suspended or cancelled through disciplinary proceedings.


What should Health Practitioners do if a Notification has been made about them?

Practitioners should always obtain advice from lawyers experienced in this area of law and as soon as they become aware of a notification made against them.  Usually, AHPRA will contact the health practitioner in writing to advise them that a notification has been made about them.

In Queensland, the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) will occasionally investigate these matters in AHPRA’s place, if the matter involves a significant issue for the health and safety of the public, pursuant to section 91C(2)(b) of the Health Ombudsman Act 2013.

The importance of obtaining early legal advice cannot be understated.  This is because a practitioner’s registration can be subjected to conditions or suspension, especially when the allegations are serious. Practitioners should also consider whether the matter needs to be disclosed to their professional indemnity insurer,

For example, if the notification involves any of the following serious matters, AHPRA may decide to take immediate action against the practitioner:

  • alleged serious criminal conduct, even if those criminal allegations are unrelated to the practice of their profession (including where charges have been laid but before any conviction);
  • conduct unconnected to practice that may diminish the public’s confidence in the profession;
  • serious performance issues which falls below the standard reasonably expected of that particular profession (doctor, nurse, paramedic, etc);
  • sexual misconduct;
  • substance abuse or any other type of impairment;
  • breaches of conditions on registration;
  • a practitioner has, or may have, an impairment that could pose a serious risk to the public;
  • a practitioner’s registration was improperly obtained because the practitioner or someone else gave the relevant Board information or a document that was false or misleading in a material particular; and
  • a practitioner’s registration has been cancelled or suspended in a non-participating jurisdiction (whether within Australia or elsewhere).

Even if the notification is false or misleading, or for a less serious matter not listed above, practitioners should take steps to obtain legal advice on ensuring that the record is corrected through an appropriate response prepared by their lawyers.

AHPRA’s Boards have the power to restrict a practitioner from practicing whilst they investigate notifications if they believe there is a risk to the public.  Even where a practitioner is not subject to immediate action or otherwise restricted from practicing, they should still obtain legal advice to minimise the risk of an adverse finding against them.


Am I required to participate in the Investigation?

In most circumstances, AHPRA investigators can require a person to provide information or documents.  Investigators also have broad search powers and can seize documents or things for analysis, measurement, or testing.

A person who fails to give information, attend questions, or produced documents without a reasonable excuse can face serious penalties.  Practitioners should always obtain legal advice on any investigation instituted by AHPRA to avoid penalties or any further disciplinary action being taken against them for not cooperating with AHPRA.


Can Health Practitioners just use their Union Lawyers or Representatives?

Health practitioners should always seek independent legal advice when a notification is made about them, or if a prescribed incident occurs which gives rise to a mandatory notification.

Whilst many health practitioners rely on the guidance they receive from their union representatives, since those services are usually free, we have noticed that those health practitioners are not receiving the meaningful guidance and assistance with their matters that they deserve.

The phrase “you get what you pay for” truly applies in these cases.  Usually, a union representative or union lawyer will be tasked with assisting hundreds of health practitioners from the same union, meaning that they will have very little time to spend on each practitioner.

Unfortunately, this means that health practitioners who choose to seek assistance from their Union, usually receive very limited guidance.   Not surprisingly, those health practitioners will often be tasked with preparing their own written submissions, with the union representative only recommending minor changes to those submissions.

For obvious reasons, this is not an effective method for responding to notifications or any other correspondence received from AHPRA.


Why Potts Lawyers?

Potts Lawyers are highly experienced at assisting health practitioners across Australia who have had a notification made against them.   Potts Lawyers provides health practitioners with a premium service aimed at minimising the risk of an adverse finding and reducing the risk of serious penalties.

Potts Lawyers takes the time to listen to each practitioner’s concerns and circumstances, so that we can formulate a strategy tailored to that practitioner’s unique position.  We then implement that strategy approved by the client, working hand in hand to ensure the submissions are accurate and persuasive, updating the practitioner throughout the entire process.   Potts Lawyers’ methods in this area of law have a proven track record of minimising the chances of an adverse finding occurring and/or ensuring the most serious penalties are avoided.

When a doctor, nurse, or paramedic’s registration is at stake, their livelihood and reputation is also on the line.  In those circumstances, nothing less than the ‘gold standard’ should even be considered.  So why would these practitioners choose a ‘free’ union representative, who does not have the time and resources to effectively assist that practitioner?

Whether the investigation is by AHPRA or OHO, Health Practitioners trust Potts Lawyers to navigate the complexities of AHPRA notifications and any impending investigation which may arise as a result of that notification.

If a notification has been made about you to AHPRA, call Potts Lawyers today for a free consultation.

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