The role of the regulator

 

Publishing outcomes of tribunal and court proceedings can help to ensure safe and competent healthcare by sharing situations where things have gone wrong—and the consequences.

Ahpra and the National Boards—including the Physiotherapy Board of Australia—work in partnership to ensure that the community has access to a safe health workforce across all professions registered under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.

How they do this includes:

  • registering only health practitioners with the skills and qualifications to provide competent and ethical care
  • setting minimum national standards of practice
  • managing complaints or concerns about the health, conduct or performance of practitioners.

The National Boards have also set codes of conduct and other guidelines to support practitioners practising safely.

Learning from regulatory action against others

As part of its role to protect the public, the Physiotherapy Board of Australia may refer a physiotherapist to a tribunal if it believes a practitioner has practised below the professional standards expected.

Summaries about the outcomes of practitioners appearing before tribunals and outcomes of prosecutions by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and National Boards are published on their websites.

This information is published to show regulation at work and as an educative resource for practitioners.

Receiving notifications about practitioners

Physiotherapy Board of Australia Chair Kim Gibson said that the Board supports practitioners by helping them understand their professional and legal obligations, but will act on concerns that a physiotherapist’s practice might be putting the public at risk.

‘If a physiotherapist is not practising safely or professionally, then we want to know about it,’ she said.

‘Public safety is our priority and we will support practitioners to improve their practice and professionalism where warranted.

'However, with some matters it may be necessary to refer a practitioner to the relevant court or tribunal, who will decide on the appropriate outcome.

‘When tribunal decisions are released, we publish news items about these outcomes as professional learning summaries, so physiotherapists can see what is expected of the profession and the potential consequences of not practising safely or professionally.’

Practitioners referred to a tribunal or court

Here are some examples of decisions made by a court or tribunal involving registered physiotherapists.

In 2020, a registered physiotherapist was reprimanded, had his registration cancelled and was disqualified from applying for registration for three months after a tribunal found he had engaged in professional misconduct.

The physiotherapist had misappropriated pages of blank prescription pads from medical practitioners at the hospital where he worked and then forged their signatures to obtain, or attempt to obtain, prescription medication by deception.

In 2017, Ahpra prosecuted a physiotherapist found by a tribunal to be fraudulent and deceptive, who backdated patient visits to facilitate claims on Medicare under the Enhanced Primary Care program, split claims to private health insurers for a single long consultation into two short consultations on separate dates to maximise the level of rebate and kept inadequate clinical records.

The tribunal reprimanded the practitioner, suspended her registration for 18 months and placed conditions on her to complete education and training before the suspension ceased.

In 2014, a physiotherapist was reprimanded and had his registration suspended for two months for professional misconduct after violating a practitioner–patient boundary by conducting a sexual relationship with a patient over a 14-month period.

The physiotherapist was required to complete a course of education addressing professional boundary management issues with patients and to undertake a 12-month mentoring program.

Since 2018, links to tribunal or court decisions that involve adverse findings have been published on a practitioner’s registration record on the online national register of practitioners.

Publishing these links helps to make publicly available information easier to find for patients and the community and is also in line with international standards.

Content supplied. Click here for more information about the notifications process and here for news summaries about the outcomes of court and tribunal hearings involving registered health practitioners. See the Health Care Complaints Commission website for decisions about practitioners based in New South Wales.

 

© Copyright 2018 by Australian Physiotherapy Association. All rights reserved.