15 September 2023

GPs call for sensible changes to criminal history checks

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called for common sense to prevail when it comes to criminal history checks for health practitioners.

It comes following the College’s submission to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and National Board’s review of the criminal history registration standard.

Dr Emil Djakic, a member of the RACGP Expert Committee on Funding and Health System Reform, called for sensible changes to be made.

“Criminal history checks play a key role in keeping patients across Australia safe; however, it’s important that we get the finer details right to alleviate unnecessary stress for GPs,” he said.

“Our aim is to remove unnecessary administrative burdens and make this entire process as painless and straightforward as possible. Ahpra itself has advised that in 2021-22 it received over 75,000 criminal history checks, and of those just 15 applicants were granted registrations with some restrictions, and only six had their application refused. The relatively miniscule number of practitioners and applicants whose registration is impacted by a criminal history underscores the need to review the onerous declaration requirements currently in place.”

Dr Djakic outlined several changes that would ease the burden on GPs.

“It must be front of mind for Ahpra that GPs are time poor and want to maximise time spent helping patients rather than wading through complex paperwork,” he said.

“To take one example, the College opposes the requirement for practitioners to declare certain minor offences to the regulatory body when applying for or renewing registration. Trivial offences, such as parking fines, are not relevant to whether someone is fit to engage in clinical practice. So, these should not have to be declared, particularly if years and years have passed.

“Let’s cut unnecessary red tape and give GPs a break. As things stand, the relevant laws differ between jurisdictions, and this, in turn, affects the types of offences that must be declared. Why not remove one extra headache that GPs have to navigate and have Ahpra enforce a standardised approach to declarations so that there is nation-wide consistency? This would be particularly helpful for those who move from one state or territory to another and have to go through this entire process again and again.

“GPs are working harder than ever before and already have a lot on their plate when it comes to regulation and compliance work. So, I call on Ahpra to ensure that criminal history checks are sensible and proportionate and to make some common sense changes to ease the burden on busy GPs.”

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