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Reporting of health practitioners by their treating practitioner under Australia’s national mandatory reporting law

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In 2010, the Australian states and territories adopted a national law requiring health practitioners, employers and education providers to report “notifiable conduct” by health practitioners to the appropriate National Health Practitioner Board through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Notifiable conduct encompasses four behaviours: (1) practising while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs; (2) sexual misconduct during the practice of the profession; (3) placing the public “at risk of substantial harm” because of an impairment; or (3) placing the public at risk because of a “significant departure from accepted professional standards”.1 Details of these rules have been published elsewhere.2,3

The mandatory notification law was received with some concern, particularly by doctors and medical professional bodies.2,4 A particularly controversial aspect was its application to practitioners who, in the course of providing care to another practitioner, form a belief that notifiable conduct has occurred. The versions of the law enacted in Western Australia and Queensland allow certain exemptions for practitioners treating other practitioners, but those in force in the other states do not.