Registered health practitioners are subject to a number of regulatory schemes administered by AHPRA and the Office of the Health Ombudsman.  It is important to understand the nature of the powers to investigate and assess health practitioners and students.

A National Board may require a registered health practitioner to undergo a health assessment if the Board reasonably believes, because of a notification or for any other reason, that the registered health practitioner may have an impairment.  For the purposes of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Qld) the word ‘impairment’ means the person has a physical or mental disability, condition or disorder that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect the person’s capacity to practice.

As part of an investigation, it may be that some information has been provided which requires expert advice through a health assessment. This assessment may be used by the National Board to take action in relation to the registered health practitioner’s registration including in relation to the conditions of that registration.

The National Agency will appoint an assessor chosen by the National Board to carry out the assessment.  A requirement for a health practitioner to attend a health assessment must be made in writing.  For the purpose of conducting the assessment, the person may be required by that notice to give stated information to the assessor within a stated reasonable time and in a stated reasonable way or attend before the assessor at the stated time and place.  A health practitioner may be required to participate in a health assessment for the purpose of the Board investigating relevant information.

It is important for practitioners to be reminded of the right to appeal against any conditions imposed on the practitioner’s registration particularly as a result of these health assessments. In the case of an appeal to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, there are a number of review powers that QCAT is able to exercise to reconsider and assess the appropriateness of the actions taken.

In a recent decision of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v HSK [2019] QCA 144 the Court considered whether or not QCAT had the power to compel, as part of that review process, a further health assessment to be undertaken.  The Court endorsed the decision of QCAT, namely, that QCAT did not have the power to compel a registered practitioner to attend a further health assessment as part of a hearing of the review of a reviewable decision.

A registered health practitioner should obtain advice at the earliest opportunity in relation to any investigation by AHPRA or the Health Ombudsman.

If you require advice, contact one of our occupational discipline specialists to discuss how we can help you protect your livelihood and professional reputation.