Membership Code of Conduct


1.  Purpose

The mission of the RACGP is to promote General Practitioner excellence, support its members practising in a complex profession and ensure the upholding of rigorous standards. The actions of Members reflect on the character of the RACGP and other members. Consistent with the Medical Board of Australia’s Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia the RACGP is committed to the highest standards of behaviour through the actions of its Members and staff.

Members of the College must observe and maintain the highest possible standards of behaviour and ethics and treat all Members of the College community with fairness, dignity, and respect. Members must uphold the integrity of the profession of General Practitioner.

This Code of Conduct (“Code”) sets out the standards of behaviour expected from Members in order to maintain confidence in the behaviour of Members and preserve the RACGP’s good name and the name of all Members, and support it to achieve its strategic objectives. All Members must be aware of the expected standards of their conduct. Lack of awareness of this Code is not of itself any defence to an allegation of breach.

Membership of the RACGP is a privilege which comes with a responsibility to maintain the high standards expected by the RACGP.

This Code outlines the circumstances under which disciplinary action may be taken against Members and what those actions may comprise.

This Code is a Code prescribed by the Board under clause 27(b) of the RACGP Constitution.

Accordingly, this Code describes conduct which, in the opinion of the Board, triggers the ability to censure, suspend or expel a Member.

2.  Application

This policy applies to all Members of the RACGP. A Member is defined to be a member under clause 110(a)(xx) of the RACGP Constitution.

Where a Member is subject to any number of other RACGP Codes of Conduct, for the purposes of interpretation and the avoidance of doubt, in the case of any conflict between the Codes, the conflict is to be resolved by applying the relevant part of the Code with the highest or more stringent standards for behaviour.

This policy is to be read together with the Fellowship Policy, Terms of Reference of the Professional Standards Committee, Appeals Policy and the RACGP Constitution, in particular:

    • Part 2.1 – Classes of Membership; and
    • Part 4 – Termination of Membership.

The obligations set out in this Code apply to any situation where there is a connection with the RACGP and/or where a Member’s behaviour adversely impacts, or has the potential to adversely impact, the RACGP including behaviour:

    • during RACGP activities, including meetings of RACGP Bodies, education delivery and any dealing with other Members, employees, trainees, medical educators, supervisors and other stakeholders; and
    • at RACGP related events, including social events.

3.  Admission to Membership

Membership is a privilege, and this section outlines minimum standards which applicants for membership must reach.

3.1 Inadmissible Applicants

The Board must not admit any person to membership who:

    1. has been convicted in the last ten years of any indictable offence against the person or any offence which includes the need to prove dishonesty in any Australian or overseas jurisdiction; or
    2. has in the last ten years been suspended or removed from the Register of Medical Practitioners by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (Ahpra).

3.2 Admissible Applicants

The Board may in its full discretion admit any eligible person to Membership. In exercising that discretion, the Board must consider:

    1. whether the eligible person is or has been subject to any disciplinary action or adverse finding by any tribunal, court, regulatory body or other agency in any jurisdiction and if so, the reasons for those actions or findings, and the time since the action or adverse finding;
    2. whether the eligible person is or has been suspended or removed from the Register of Medical Practitioners held by Ahpra or had conditions of any nature inconsistent with their ability to practise as a specialist GP imposed at any time;
    3. whether the eligible person is or has been charged or convicted of any indictable offence against any Australian law;
    4. whether the eligible person is or has been charged or convicted of any offence against any Australian law which includes the need to prove dishonesty and if so, what offence and when it was purported to have occurred;
    5. whether the eligible person is or has been declared bankrupt or been the subject of any order under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (C’th);
    6. whether the eligible person is or has been a director or executive officer of a corporation which became insolvent whilst a director or executive officer;
    7. the risk that the RACGP may have its reputation affected or tarnished by admitting a person who is or could be perceived to be inappropriate;
    8. whether the applicant holds or has held any views demonstrated publicly which are of their nature antithetical to general practice or which in the Board’s opinion may constitute a threat to public health or safety;
    9. any failure by the eligible person to comply fully with clause 3.3; and
    10. any other considerations the Board deems relevant.

3.3 Further Information

The Board may at any time:

    1. request any additional information from an applicant to determine whether to admit them to membership;
    2. investigate any applicant in relation to their application.

Where the Board exercises any power under clauses 3.3 (a) or (b), an applicant must comply fully with any request or investigation commenced by the Board.

4. Conduct, Behaviour and Professional Standards

Member conduct is integral to the reputation of the RACGP and its Members. The RACGP expects the highest standards from its Members, consistent with the professionalism and nature of the RACGP. This section describes the standards expected of Members and what the consequences might be for Members who cannot adhere to those standards.

4.1 Conduct

Members must:

    1. act in the RACGP’s best interests; 
    2. act with a high degree of professionalism, integrity and mutual respect; 
    3. refrain from engaging in any conduct which might damage the RACGP’s reputation; 
    4. refrain from engaging in any activity which in the opinion of the RACGP Board could constitute a threat to public health or safety; 
    5. carry out tasks or duties assigned to them by the RACGP diligently and professionally; 
    6. comply with any lawful and reasonable directions of the RACGP, including those set out in its policies and procedures from time to time; 
    7. comply with contractual obligations and other undertakings; 
    8. disclose fully and honestly all membership information required by the RACGP; 
    9. maintain, as appropriate, the confidentiality of any RACGP information (Confidential Information) to which they have access; 
    10. use their position at the RACGP and the RACGP's resources in a responsible manner; 
    11. refrain from misrepresenting or publishing misleading information about any RACGP position they hold: 
    12. use reasonable endeavours to protect the assets and resources of the RACGP and to ensure their efficient use for legitimate RACGP purposes; 
    13. fully co-operate with any investigation by the Board or the Professional Standards Committee (or its delegate) into any breach of this Code; 
    14. fully co-operate with any investigation by any regulatory authority in any jurisdiction into a possible breach of any law by any Member; 
    15. comply with any applicable RACGP policies; 
    16. use any authority delegated to them by the RACGP appropriately and within its limits. 

If a Member engages in misconduct, disciplinary action under part 4.1 of the RACGP Constitution may commence.

A Member has the right to express an opinion which differs to RACGP policy, as long as that opinion is expressed in a manner which is fair and respectful and the opinion:

    • does not damage the RACGP’s reputation; or
    • does not, in the opinion of the Board, constitute a threat to public health or safety.

4.2 Behaviour

Members must:

    1. act honestly; 
    2. where relevant, declare any conflict of interest arising by virtue of any role held at the RACGP in accordance with the relevant policy dealing with conflicts of interest; 
    3. not promote, in public or in private, activities which in the opinion of the Board constitute a threat to public health or safety; 
    4. interact with other Members and Staff in a constructive manner; 
    5. behave professionally towards other Members, stakeholders and Staff; 
    6. treat people fairly, with dignity, courtesy and respect, objectively, and free from bullying, harassment or other inappropriate behaviour; 
    7. not use offensive language or behaviour when dealing with other Members, stakeholders and Staff; 
    8. not engage in any form of unlawful discrimination; 
    9. not engage in any form of bullying or harassment or physical or verbal conduct, which a reasonable person would deem to be unwelcome, offensive, humiliating, or intimidating; 
    10. not ignore actual or perceived behaviour or conduct that may be in breach of this Code, but to act in good faith to overtly identify and report any such behaviour; and 
    11. support colleagues who identify and report, in good faith, such behaviour or conduct.

4.3 Professional Standards and Medical Board Code of Conduct Obligations

    1. In addition to the obligations outlined in this Membership Code of Conduct, Members must at all times comply with the current version of the Code of Conduct titled Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia (Practitioner Code of Conduct) or equivalent issued by Ahpra or its successor. 
    1. Where there is an inconsistency between the Ahpra Practitioner Code of Conduct and this Membership Code of Conduct, the RACGP will resolve the inconsistency by applying the interpretation of the respective Code which imposes the highest (most stringent) standard on the practitioner.

4.4 Examples of Unacceptable Conduct or Behaviour

Some examples of unacceptable conduct or behaviour which can lead to disciplinary action include but are not limited to:

    • breaches of applicable RACGP policies;
    • breach of confidentiality and or privacy;
    • commission of professional misconduct;
    • failing to act in the RACGP’s best interests;
    • using their position or authority outside its limits, or obtaining an improper advantage or causing a detriment through the inappropriate use of that authority or delegation;
    • misrepresenting their position or authority outside its limits;
    • bullying, harassment or other inappropriate behaviour towards another Member or Staff; and
    • defaming the RACGP or otherwise bringing it into disrepute.

5.  Disciplinary Action

A failure to adhere to the standards in this Code may have consequences for a Member. This section, and section 6 outline the processes involved where a Member transgresses this Code and what possible consequences there may be.

5.1 Automatic Termination of RACGP Membership

Clause 30 of the RACGP Constitution provides for automatic termination under the circumstances described.

Those circumstances relevant to this Code are where a Member’s name is removed from the register of a medical or professional authority recognised by the Board or the Member is suspended from practice by that authority.

5.2 Termination of RACGP Membership or other Sanction under clause 27 of the RACGP Constitution

Clause 27 of the RACGP Constitution provides for discretionary termination under the circumstances described.

The Board may sanction a Member under clause 27 if the Member is in violation of the RACGP Constitution or where the Member is guilty of conduct which in the Board’s opinion breaches any prescribed regulatory code or is prejudicial to the interests of the college.

The Board considers that conduct prejudicial to the interests of the college includes:

    • any finding of guilt by any court, tribunal or other regulatory body of any indictable offence, or any adverse finding in a professional misconduct proceeding or similar proceeding; and
    • any breach of para 4 of this Code; and
    • any breach of the Fellowship Policy.

6.  Disciplinary Proceedings

6.1 Reporting Unacceptable Conduct or Behaviour

Any person may write to the Chair of the Board disclosing conduct by a Member which may constitute a breach of this Code. The Chair must consider the correspondence and any evidence supporting the allegation. Once the Chair has considered the evidence:

    • if, in the opinion of the Chair, following legal advice, the matter may be referable to an external regulatory body, then the Chair must refer the matter to the Board;
    • the Chair may refer the matter to the Professional Standards Committee in accordance with its Terms of Reference or the Board; or
    • the Chair may dismiss the matter.

If the allegation falls under relevant mandatory reporting legislation, then the Chair must make the necessary report. The Chair may need to seek further advice around the nature of the conduct alleged

The Chair may dismiss an allegation if in the Chair’s opinion:

    • the allegation is false, frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance;
    • the allegation is malicious or not made in good faith;
    • a significant period of time has elapsed since the conduct in question has taken place such that any proceeding would be futile;
    • the allegation is substantially the same as a previous allegation which has already been the subject of a determination under another proceeding of the RACGP or an external body; or
    • the allegation is the subject of existing legal proceedings.

6.2  Appeals from Professional Standards Committee Decisions

A Member may appeal any decision of the Professional Standards Committee. 

An appeal must be made within twenty business days of the Member being notified of the decision to be the subject of the appeal. 

Appeals cannot be made on the merits of the decision. An appeal can only be made on the basis that the process was flawed in some way. 

Appeals must be made to the Appeals Committee. The Appeals Committee is a Committee of the Board. 

6.3 Appeals Committee Composition

The Appeals Committee consists of: 

    1. four Faculty Provosts nominated by the President or the President’s delegate; and 
    2. one person nominated by the President who;
      1. is not medically qualified;
      2. is not otherwise employed or engaged by the RACGP;
      3. has experience in administrative decision making; and
      4. was not sitting on the Professional Standards Committee when that Committee made the decision the subject of the appeal. 

6.4 Chair

The Appeals Committee will appoint a Chair from amongst its members for the purposes of the appeal. 

6.5 Appeals Committee Governance

Sections 5.3, 5.4, 5.5 and 5.6 of the Terms of Reference for the Professional Standards Committee apply to the Appeals Committee. 

6.6 Proceedings

Once an appeal is received by the Appeals Committee, the Appeals Committee may dismiss the appeal if it considers that: 

    • the appeal is frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance;
    • the appeal is malicious or not made in good faith;
    • a significant period of time has elapsed since the decision in question has taken place such that any appeal would be futile;
    • the appeal is substantially the same as a previous challenge which has already been the subject of a determination under another proceeding; or
    • the appeal is the subject of existing legal proceedings. 

6.7 Appeals Principles

The appeal process must adhere to the following principles: 

    1. Decision makers must: 
      1. ensure that an appellant has adequate opportunity to put their case; 
      2. have no conflict of interest in the subject of the appeal; 
      3. hear the appeal in an expedient manner; 
      4. ensure that all relevant information is considered in making a decision; and 
      5. make decisions in writing, which are appropriately recorded and communicated to appellants within a reasonable time of determination. 
    2. Appellants must: 
      1. only bring appeals when other avenues for dispute resolution have been exhausted; 
      2. not bring appeals which are false, frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance; 
      3. provide information requested for by a decision maker; and 
      4. not seek to obstruct or otherwise abuse the appeals process. 

6.8 Basis for Decision

In considering an appeal a decision-maker must make a decision based on findings of facts that are established on sound reasoning and relevant evidence.

Within twenty business days from receipt of the appeal, the Appeals Committee must: 

    • consider all the information from the original decision; 
    • consider any new or additional information provided with the appeal; and 
    • otherwise investigate the appeal as they see fit.

The Appeals Committee must consider any submission by the Party and any other relevant evidence it has received.

The Appeals Committee may investigate an appeal by referring it to a Committee. The Appeals Committee must not refer an appeal back to the Professional Standards Committee for reinvestigation.

Where the Appeals Committee delegates an appeal to a Committee:

    • the Committee is bound by clauses 6.7 to 6.11 in this policy as if it were the Appeals Committee;
    • the Appeals Committee must accept the Committee’s decision; and
    • the Committee is delegated all the necessary powers to determine the appeal.

6.9 Redirection and Adjournment of Matter

At any time during an appeal, the Appeals Committee  may, after taking legal advice from the legal branch, refer the matter to an external authority such as the local police, Medical Board of Australia or any other investigative authority.

Upon redirection, the Appeals Committee may adjourn the appeal for any period it sees fit.

If the Appeals Committee adjourns the appeal, it must notify the Party as soon as practicable.

If the Appeals Committee refers the matter to an external authority, the Chair must notify the Party and offer the Party external counselling and support if necessary. 

6.10 Decision 

Having considered all the evidence, the Appeals Committee must decide whether the appeal is substantiated, partially substantiated or not substantiated.  

If the Appeals Committee finds that the appeal is not substantiated, then they must inform the Member accordingly. Any sanctions from the original decision stand and are to be enforced. 

If the Appeals Committee finds the appeal to be fully or partially substantiated, then the Board delegates the following powers to the Appeals Committee and the Appeals Committee may do one or more of the following: 

    • reinstate the Member; 
    • issue an apology; 
    • issue a fresh resolution reversing the whole or any part of the decision sanctioning the Member and replacing it with another decision including any sanction that the Committee could have made; or 
    • take no action. 

The Appeals Committee must within 5 national office business days, inform the Member of the results of the appeal, the actions of the Board and the reasons for those actions. 

6.11 Further Appeals

There are no further appeals. Any decision on an appeal is final.

7.  Amendment of this Code of Conduct

The Board may make amendments to this Code at any time. 

8.  Responsibilities 

Board

Responsible for approval of policy and amendments.

Chair

Responsible for receiving and assessing initial allegations against Members.

 

9. Glossary

Committee

means any Committee established by the Board or the CEO of the RACGP or any Committee of the College under clause 28(b) of the RACGP Constitution.

Confidential Information

includes any information:

  • the subject of a confidentiality provision or confidentiality deed under a contract to which the RACGP is a party;
  • generated in Board proceedings which the Board deems to be confidential;
  • which is subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (C’th) or any equivalent state based legislation such as the  Privacy and  Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) or the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic);
  • trade secrets;
  • which would give rise to a legal obligation of confidentiality; or
  •  information gained by virtue of occupying a position as an employee, Member, director or contractor of the RACGP which is of its nature confidential at law.

does not include:

  • any information in the public domain; or
  • any information which would be confidential to another party where that party has explicitly agreed to the information no longer being confidential.

Member

means a member under clause 110(a)(xxi) of the RACGP Constitution.

Practitioner Code of Conduct

the Code of Conduct titled “Good Medical practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia” or equivalent issued by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) or its successor under section 39 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

RACGP Code of Conduct

includes the

  • Staff Code of Conduct;
  • Fellowship Policy;
  • Directors’ Code of Conduct; and
  • any other policy which regulates a person’s behaviour.

Staff

means any employee or contractor of the RACGP

 

10. Related Documents, Legislation and Policies

Appeals Policy

Directors’ Code of Conduct

Fellowship Policy

Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia 

Guidelines for Advertising of Regulated Health Services

Health Practitioner Regulation National Law

RACGP Constitution

Staff Code of Conduct

Terms of Reference of the Professional Standards Committee

Compliance

N/A

Guidance

N/A                                                               

11. Policy Review and Currency 

This policy will be reviewed every three years from the last approval date, or when there is a significant change in the intent of the policy. 

Version History

 

Release Notice

Version

Date of effect

Amendment details

Amended by

1.0

 

Initial release

 

 

 

Policy owner:

Board

Approved by:

Board                 

Approved on:

18 Aug 2022

Next Review Due:

Aug 2025

 

 

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