Terms of Reference of the Professional Standards Committee


1. Purpose

These Terms of Reference establish the Board’s Professional Standards Committee, describing its memberships and responsibilities, and providing guidance as to its proceedings. 

2.  Application

These TOR apply to the Professional Standards Committee.

These TOR are to be read together with the RACGP Constitution, the Membership Code of Conduct, Fellowship Policy, Appeals Policy, Privacy Policy, Declaration of Interests Policy and any other policy relevant to the Committee’s functions.

3. Interpretation

Words used in these TOR have the meaning given to them in Part 11.9 of the RACGP Constitution.  In the event of inconsistency between these Terms and the RACGP Constitution, the RACGP Constitution prevails.

4.  Background

As a membership-based organisation, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is committed to ensuring all members demonstrate a high standard of professionalism, including complying with the Membership Code of Conduct, Fellowship Policy, and other related codes and policies.

Under Part 4 clause 27 of the RACGP Constitution, the RACGP Board is empowered to terminate membership of any member if they do not comply with the RACGP Constitution or breach RACGP codes or policies.

4.1 Functions

The Committee is established to: 

    1. investigate allegations of contraventions of the Membership Code of Conduct or Fellowship Policy when referred by the Chair of the Board; 
    2. act on matters regarding professional conduct, as referred to them by the Chair of the Board; 
    3. apply sanctions where allegations have been substantiated; and 
    4. review its own performance annually and report such findings to the RACGP Board.

5. Committee Governance

5.1 Committee Composition

The Committee consists of:

    1. the Censor-in-Chief;
    2. a Faculty Provost nominated by the President or their delegate; and
    3. one person nominated by the Board annually who;
      1. is not medically qualified;
      2. is not otherwise employed or engaged by the RACGP; and
      3. has experience in administrative decision making;

or individuals officially acting in those roles.

Any member of the Committee may appoint a delegate to represent them for any meeting. 

5.2 Chair

The Censor-in-Chief is the Chair of the Committee. 

5.3 Conflict of Interest

Committee members must not place themselves in a position of conflict of interest whereby their obligations to satisfy their duties and responsibilities are compromised, potentially compromised or perceived to be compromised.

Committee members must not compromise their professional judgment because of bias, conflict of interest or the undue influence of others. In such circumstances, they must not continue performing their duties and promptly notify the Chair and the RACGP as appropriate.

No committee member may use their position, their authority or any information received to obtain an advantage for themselves or detriment for others.

Prior to any hearing, all members of the Committee must disclose any conflicts of interest they may have in the matter to be considered. The Chair must determine how any disclosed conflicts are to be managed.

If the Chair determines that any member has a conflict which requires them to stand down from the Committee, then the member the subject of the conflict must nominate an alternative member.

If the Chair has a conflict, then the remaining members must decide how that conflict is to be managed. Where those members determine unanimously that the Chair must stand down, the members of the Committee must nominate an alternative Chair.

All disclosures and how they are to be managed must be accurately recorded by the Chair.

Committee members must comply with the RACGP Declarations of Interest Policy.

5.4 Confidentiality

Committee members will receive or have access to confidential, sensitive and personal information. Committee members must only use or disclose such information to the extent necessary to satisfy their duties and responsibilities.

If there is uncertainty as to whether any information is confidential, such information is deemed confidential and not within the public domain.

Committee members must safeguard the confidentiality of any information received by adopting and maintaining reasonable precautions.

Committee members must not make any press or other announcements or releases in connection with any deliberations, outcomes or decisions of the Committee.

Upon cessation of their Committee membership, or at the RACGP’s request, Committee members must promptly return to the RACGP (or if so requested destroy or delete) any material in their possession obtained in connection with the Committee.

All Committee members agree to be bound by, and must abide by, the RACGP Privacy Policy.

5.5 Conduct of Hearings

Prior to convening any hearing, the committee must consider whether any external body is investigating the matter referred by the Board. If any external body is investigating the matter, the Committee may adjourn the hearing for any period it sees fit.

If the Committee adjourns the hearing, it must notify the member the subject of the allegation (the Party) as soon as practicable.

All decisions in a hearing are to be made by majority vote. In the event of a tied vote, the Chair has the determinative vote.

The Committee may participate in a meeting by means of any technology that gives its members a reasonable opportunity to participate.

A quorum for the Committee is two members.

The Committee reports to the Board and must circulate its minutes to the Board as soon as practicable after each hearing, ideally alongside any recommendations.

Additional RACGP staff members may attend a hearing to support the Committee in an administrative or secretariat capacity. The additional staff member(s) must accurately record and document the Committee’s decision.

The Committee may obtain evidence as and how it deems necessary.

If the Party decides to attend the hearing, they may be accompanied by a support person.

5.6 Burden of Proof

A finding of substantiated misconduct against a Party must not be made unless established on the provided evidence to the comfortable satisfaction of the Committee. In applying this burden of proof, the more serious the allegation and the consequences, the higher the standard of the evidence required for the allegation to be substantiated.

6. Proceedings

6.1 Receipt of Reference from the Board

The Committee must consider any reference received from the Chair of the Board.

The Committee may dismiss an allegation if in the Committee’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   Investigation

If the Committee decides to investigate an allegation, the Committee must:

    • inform itself as it sees fit to investigate the allegation;
    • consider all relevant information; and
    • provide the Party with details of the allegation and allow them to provide a written or verbal response to the allegation.

The Committee must ensure that any investigation is completed within a reasonable time.

6.3 Committee Deliberation Principles

All parties to a Committee hearing must adhere to the following principles: 

    1. Decision makers must: 
      1. ensure that a Party has adequate opportunity to put their case; 
      2.  ensure that the issue in question is not being decided by the person who made the original decision; 
      3. have no conflict of interest in the subject of the hearing; 
      4. hear the matter in an expedient manner; 
      5. ensure that all relevant information is considered in making a decision; and 
      6. (make decisions in writing, which are appropriately recorded and communicated to the Party within a reasonable time of determination. 
    2. Parties must: 
      1. (i)    provide information requested for by the Committee; and 
      2. (ii)    not seek to obstruct or otherwise abuse the Committee process. 

6.4 Basis for Decision

In considering a case of alleged misconduct, a decision-maker must make a decision based on findings of facts that are established on sound reasoning and relevant evidence.

The Committee must decide on the outcome of the reference no later than 10 business days after receipt of a final investigation report.

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

6.5 Redirection and Adjournment of Matter

At any time during a hearing, the 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 Committee may adjourn the hearing for any period it sees fit.

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

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

6.6   Decision

If, after the investigation, the Committee decides that the allegation is unsubstantiated, the Committee must dismiss the allegation.

If, after the investigation, the Committee decides that the allegation is partially or fully substantiated, the Committee may, by resolution impose sanctions.

6.7 Sanctions

The sanctions which the Committee may impose are any number of the following: 

    1. a written reprimand or warning to the Party; 
    2. a direction that the Party provide a written apology to the RACGP or any other person affected by the misconduct; 
    3. a direction that the Party attend counselling, workshops or educational events at their own cost within a specified time period; 
    4. a direction that the Party reimburse any reasonable costs incurred by the RACGP in investigating and determining the allegations of misconduct; 
    5. a direction that the Party reimburse any reasonable costs assessed by the RACGP as costs resulting from the misconduct; or 
    6. a recommendation to the RACGP Board that the RACGP commence legal action against the Party; 
    7. suspend or expel the Party from membership; or 
    8. notify the outcome of the hearing and sanction imposed if required by any mandatory reporting legislation, or to any authorised regulatory body. 

6.8 Factors in Determining a Sanction

The Committee may consider the following factors in determining the appropriateness of any sanction for misconduct:

    1. the nature, extent and seriousness of the misconduct;
    2. the Party’s prior record (if any) of misconduct;
    3. whether the misconduct was intentional;
    4. the impact of the misconduct on others; and
    5. any mitigating circumstances.

6.9 Failure to Comply with a Sanction imposed by the Committee

Any person may report a failure to comply with a sanction to the Chair of the Committee.

A person who reports a failure to comply to the Chair of the Committee must provide evidence of the alleged failure.

If satisfied that the evidence discloses a failure to comply, the Committee must write to the Party:

    • notifying them that information has been received that they have failed to comply with a Committee sanction;
    • giving them seven business days within which to respond to the allegation. 

Where the Party fails to respond to the Committee within the seven days, the Committee may immediately:

    • expel the Party from membership; or 
    • recommend to the Board that following legal advice, legal action be commenced against the Party to enforce the sanction.

Where the Party responds to the Committee within the seven days, the Committee must consider the Party’s response before making any decision. The Committee may ask for any additional information as they deem necessary.

Having considered the Party’s response, the Committee may:

    • take no further action; or 
    • affirm the failure to comply.

If the Committee confirms that there has been a failure to comply, the Committee may do any of the following:

    • impose an additional or alternative sanction described in clause 6.7 on the Party; 
    • expel the Party from membership; or 
    • recommend to the Board that following legal advice, legal action be commenced against the Party to enforce the sanction.

6.10 Notification

The Chair of the Committee must notify the Party of the outcome of the hearing within 10 national office business days after the determination is made. This notice must include:

    • the Committee’s findings; 
    • the sanction imposed (if any); 
    • the summary reasons for the decision; and 
    • a copy of, or link to, the RACGP Appeals Policy and this policy.

Where the Committee decides that an allegation is partially or fully substantiated, the Committee may, where authorised to do so, notify the relevant Medical Board, Police or other regulatory authority of that finding, including details of sanctions imposed (if any) once the relevant appeal period (if any) has expired.

6.11 Appeals

There are no appeals from a decision of the Committee under this policy. Appeals against Committee decisions may be brought under the Membership Code of Conduct or the Fellowship Policy

7. Amendment of these Terms of Reference (TOR)

The Board may make Amendments to these TOR at any time.

8. Responsibilities
 

Board

Responsible for approval of policy.

Professional Standards Committee

Hears and determines matters concerning allegations of misconduct.

 

 9. Glossary

Misconduct

Any conduct which is contrary to the Membership Code of Conduct or the Fellowship Policy.

Party

A person the subject of allegations

 

10. Related Documents, Legislation and Policies 

Appeals Policy;

Declaration of Interests Policy

Fellowship Policy;

Membership Code of Conduct;

Privacy Policy

RACGP Constitution

Compliance

This policy complies with all relevant legislation:

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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