Proposed amendments to the National Law which will allow complaints to be made public before tribunal proceedings are finalised will cause grave injustice to doctors.
The AMA will continue lobbying against proposed changes to the National Law, which a Queensland parliamentary committee inquiry has supported. The AMA has consistently argued that these changes will negatively impact doctors while failing to deliver improvements to patient safety.
The committee has handed down its report following hearings last month, during which both AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid, and AMA Queensland President, Dr Maria Boulton, gave evidence.
The following proposed amendments are of great concern:
changing the guiding principles of the National Law to make public safety and confidence paramount considerations
introducing a power for the Health Ombudsman and national regulators to issue public statements about persons whose conduct poses a serious risk to public health and safety
removing barriers to information sharing to employers and other entities associated with the practitioner
Removing the ban on use of testimonial by practitioners in promoting their professional practice.
The AMA has strongly argued against the proposal for Ahpra or the Medical Board to be able to make public warning statements about a doctor before a tribunal has completed its due process. Given the way the internet and social media operate, any adverse public statements by a regulator, once issued, are likely to remain permanently publicly accessible – even if the statement is subsequently revoked by the regulators as being without substance or issued in error.
A public statement is a completely non-retractable step and will cause irreparable harm to the health and wellbeing of practitioners who may have done nothing wrong. Ahpra and the Medical Board already have the power to act against a practitioner who poses a serious risk to the public without needing this additional power.
Regarding testimonials, the committee did recommend a delay in implementing the removal of the ban on testimonials until the current independent review of regulation in relation to cosmetic surgery is completed.
The AMA continues to argue that testimonials are easily faked or taken out of context and are likely to be relied upon by patients, even if their condition is not comparable. Whilst testimonials which are false, misleading or deceptive will be prohibited, the ability for regulators to adequately enforce what will likely be a very high volume of testimonials remains questionable. There was scant evidence from stakeholders that removing the prohibition of testimonial advertising would lead to improved patient outcomes.
The legislation in support of the amendments may be considered by the Queensland parliament within the next couple of months.
If the legislation is passed, the amendments would automatically apply in all states and territories that are part of the National Scheme, except Western Australia, which must pass corresponding legislation, and South Australia, which must make regulations to apply the changes.