AHPRA to review registration rules on doctors with criminal histories

The watchdog has proposed a list of serious offences that would be deemed 'incompatible' with registration, including murder and serious sexual assault.
Martin Fletcher.

AHPRA has launched a consultation into whether doctors who have committed criminal offences — such as those involving driving under the influence, domestic violence or racial hostility — should be denied medical registration.

It forms part of the watchdog’s wider reform agenda, which began in February, where AHPRA pledged to give patients a greater say in decisions and make disciplinary action more “transparent”.

According to AHPRA, in 2020/21, two doctors were refused registration based on a criminal history. 

This was out of just 21 practitioners across all health professions who had committed criminal offences serious enough to affect their registration.

Announcing the consultation, AHPRA said these decisions were based on a decade-old guideline on weighing up the crime’s gravity, the practitioner’s behaviour since the crime and the potential threat to patients.  

But it said “the environment” in which decisions were made about serious criminal misconduct, particularly serious sexual misconduct, and a doctor’s fitness to practise had changed. 

It proposed a specific list of serious offences that would be deemed “incompatible” with AHPRA registration, including murder and serious sexual assault. 

Other serious offences would include those “involving hostility to others based on race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation”. 

There would then be a middle tier of offences that would require health practitioners to make the case that they were not a risk to the public — either because of the amount of time that had passed since the offence or exceptional circumstances.  

These offences would include a history of repeat driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, domestic violence offences, common assault, animal cruelty and indecent exposure. 

The lowest category of offences would be “unlikely to be considered relevant” to registration and would include minor drug offences.

The watchdog was also considering whether more decisions on deregistered doctors or other practitioners applying to practise again should be made public. 

“This review, as part of our greater reform of our approach to sexual boundary notifications, is an important opportunity to ensure healthcare is safe for patients and in line with community expectations,” said AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher. 

Feedback on the consultation paper is open until 14 September.

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