What measures are in place to tackle dangerous doctors?

Published 11 Apr 2018

Health care professionals are the most trusted employees in Australia. Nurses, doctors and pharmacists ranked first, second and third respectively in a Roy Morgan poll last year. Nurses have topped the list for 23 years in a row.

But despite the great work that the majority of medical practitioners do, negligent doctors still exist. A study in BJM found that just 3 per cent of professionals are responsible for nearly half of all health care complaints.

So what measures are in place to protect patients in Australia?

1. Health care complaints bodies

All states and territories in the country have government agencies that protect public health and safety by investigating complaints made against health care providers.

In NSW, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) is the responsible body and can take a number of actions after assessing a grievance, including:

  • Referring the complaint for a formal investigation;
  • Forwarding the complaint to the health provider to resolve with patients directly;
  • Pass the complaint to the HCCC's resolution service; or
  • Take no further action.

The HCCC may decide to pursue legal proceedings against medical practitioners who are particularly negligent - or even criminal - when providing care.

2. Medical Board of Australia revalidation

Ensuring medical practitioners' skills are up to date and they remain fit to practice is an essential part of maintaining safety and care standards. The process of reviewing current capabilities is called revalidation.

As such, the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) recently published a discussion paper suggesting the best ways to identify potentially dangerous doctors before they harm someone.

The report highlighted various risk factors, such as:

  • Age (over 35 and the risks increase further into middle and older age);
  • Number of prior complaints;
  • A history of not responding to feedback;
  • Certain medical fields; and
  • Practising in isolation away from other colleagues.

Following the discussion paper, the MBA announced that all doctors aged over 70 must have their work peer-reviewed and undergo health tests every three years to ensure they can still practice.

Medical practitioners who have multiple complaints against them will also be reassessed to check their ability to continue working.

3. Medical negligence compensation

Even with the above measures in place, patients can still be injured, become ill or even die due to medical negligence in Australia.

Compensation won't prevent mistakes from happening, but it does provide essential financial support for anyone who suffers potentially life-changing problems after receiving medical treatment

Please contact a personal injury specialist at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to learn more.