Patient Safety Needs More Transparency in Health Care


Improved transparency, increased public access to information and more sharing of information between regulatory bodies is needed to help protect the public from unsafe healthcare, say lawyers practising in medical law.

The investigation conducted by Four Corners has highlighted examples of repeated patient sexual abuse by medical practitioners who have been allowed to keep practising despite complaints against them.

“I see this issue often – doctors who have been repeatedly disciplined for sub-standard work or poor conduct who are allowed to keep working. Of course, sexual abuse is particularly appalling,” said spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), barrister Ngaire Watson.

“In our view Ahpra should disclose more information publicly regarding disciplinary action taken against health practitioners, including making the information permanently available instead of wiping it after a few years when the conditions on their registration have been lifted.

“We also need to be informing the public that they can research information about a doctor themselves. Most people have never heard of the national boards or Ahpra and their investigative powers and processes, let alone realise that they can search the websites for information.

“ALA members have represented numerous patients who have received treatment from practitioners who had restrictions placed upon their registrations or who were undergoing investigations at the time of providing treatment, and the patients were completely unaware of this history.

“There are several tribunals, boards and agencies who can be involved in responding to complaints against medical practitioners. Stronger linkages and information-sharing between these agencies and boards would also ensure improved patient safety.

“Patient safety must be given higher priority and prominence when regulators and professional bodies are making decisions following complaints. The purpose of the regulator is to protect the public first, not the practitioner.”

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