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Mandatory reports of concerns about the health, performance and conduct of health practitioners

Health practitioners are often well placed to identify colleagues who pose risks to patients, but they have traditionally been reluctant to do so.14 Since 2010, laws in all Australian states and territories require health practitioners to report all “notifiable conduct” that comes to their attention to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Legal regimes in other countries, including New Zealand,5 the United States3,6 and Canada,7 mandate reports about impaired peers in certain circumstances. However, Australia’s mandatory reporting law is unusually far-reaching. It applies to peers and treating practitioners, as well as employers and education providers, across 14 health professions. Notifiable conduct is defined broadly to cover practising while intoxicated, sexual misconduct, or placing the public at risk through impairment or a departure from accepted standards. Key elements of the law are shown in Box 1.

Mandatory reporting has sparked controversy and debate among clinicians, professional bodies and patient safety advocates. Supporters believe that it facilitates the identification of dangerous practitioners, communicates…