AHPRA & Health National Board Investigations

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), in conjunction with a National Health Board, may investigate misconduct and sanction registered health practitioners and students. The relevant National Health Boards include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia
  • Chinese Medicine Board of Australia
  • Chiropractic Board of Australia
  • Dental Board of Australia
  • Medical Board of Australia
  • Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia
  • Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia
  • Occupational Therapy Board of Australia
  • Optometry Board of Australia
  • Osteopathy Board of Australia
  • Paramedicine Board of Australia
  • Pharmacy Board of Australia
  • Physiotherapy Board of Australia
  • Podiatry Board of Australia
  • Psychology Board of Australia

Immediate Action

 A National Board may undertake ‘immediate action’ to suspend or place conditions on a health practitioner or student’s registration. Immediate action can only be undertaken when the relevant board forms a reasonable belief that there may be an immediate and serious risk to the public. Common causes of immediate action include:

  • Allegations of serious criminal conduct;
  • Serious performance issues;
  • Drug or alcohol use;
  • Inappropriate sexual conduct with a patient; and
  • Breach of an existing registration condition.

Prior to undertaking any immediate action, the National Board must notify the health practitioner or student of the proposed action and invite them to make a submission. The submission must ‘show cause’ as to why the immediate action should not be taken. The relevant National Board will then privately consider the submission. It must issue a notice and written reasons for its decision and state the process of appeal.

Following immediate action, the National Board may refer specific issues to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or undertake further investigation. The AHPRA public register is also amended to reflect the National Board’s decision. In some cases, the practitioner’s privacy may be considered in deciding to amend the register.

AHPRA Investigations

A National Board may appoint an AHPRA investigator, or team of investigators, to conduct investigation. An investigation may be instigated following a referral to investigate from an assessment or immediate action process, or by the National Board’s own motion. A National Board may commence investigations of its own motion if it is concerned that the practitioner or student poses a risk to patients or the public.

After appointment, the AHPRA investigator will contact the student or practitioner as part of the investigation and provide his or her contact details. An investigation will consider whether the practitioner has complied with the relevant National Board’s registration standards, codes and guidelines. During investigation, AHPRA investigators may request certain information. After receiving a written notice for information, it is an offence to not provide that information. An important exception is that a person can refuse to provide the requested information if that information might incriminate them.

The consequences

At the end of an investigation, the investigator will prepare a report for the National Board containing all of the relevant information collected during the investigation. This report is not released to the practitioner or student. In contemplation of the Report the relevant National Board may undertake further action such as referral to another agency, cautioning or reprimanding the practitioner, or suspending or cancelling registration. Notice of the decision and the reasons for the decision will be made available to the practitioner or student and the person who raised the concern.

How can we help

It is important that if you are asked to show cause by AHPRA or are told of an investigation into certain conduct, you obtain legal advice before you answer the notice.