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Reporting Health Conditions

Reporting Health Conditions

Denis O'Callaghan, Principal Lawyer, Gordon Legal

Self-reporting a health condition to Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) can have serious implications on your ability to continue to practice the nursing or midwifery professions. Before deciding to make any self-report to AHPRA you should contact the ANMF and seek advice.

AHPRA is the regulator who is responsible for the administrative and operational regulation of the health, performance and conduct of individual health practitioners across 15 health profession boards including the Nursing and Midwifery Board, who are the decision-makers regarding any concerns raised about nurses and midwives.

Registration renewal

The Board, subject to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, decides who is fit to practise their profession and therefore to be registered. At the renewal of registration each year, the practitioner must make a declaration about their health.

Being diagnosed with a health condition and being impaired are not considered the same thing.

Only an impairment needs to be declared. The National Law considers an ‘impairment’ to mean the person has a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence) that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect the person’s capacity to practise the profession.

Mandatory notifications

While it is part of your professional obligations as a registered nurse, midwife or enrolled nurse to make mandatory notifications, it is only in very specific circumstances that a mandatory notification is required to be made. AHPRA advise “a health issue rarely needs a mandatory notification”.

Mandatory notifications and voluntary notifications are different. Voluntary notifications can be made about nurses and midwives by anyone, including the public, if they believe they have grounds to do so. The grounds on which they can be made are broad reaching and may be trivial. For example: a nurse was seen littering outside of their workplace.

Typically, these types of complaints are not pursued by the Nursing and Midwifery Board because the Board’s focus is on whether the nurse or midwife poses an ongoing risk to the public or serious damage to the reputation of nurses and midwives.

Approximately 70 per cent of notifications will result in no further action being taken by AHPRA.

Mandatory notifications are obligations on health practitioners to report to AHPRA any notifiable conduct of another health practitioner. In relation to a practitioner’s health, this includes:

  • practising whilst intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • placing the public at risk of substantial harm in the practitioner’s practice of the profession because the practitioner has an impairment.

If you have an illness or condition that is being managed and is not detrimentally impacting your capacity to practice and is unlikely to, you do NOT need to declare it to AHPRA.

To make a mandatory notification to AHPRA you need to have a ‘reasonable belief’ that another health practitioner is putting patients or the public at ‘substantial risk of harm’. Supposition, gossip and rumours are unlikely to meet this threshold; specific evidence is required.

Examples that do NOT require a mandatory notification

  • A health practitioner working with a physical health condition or mental health condition they are managing effectively.
  • A health practitioner receiving treatment or taking sick leave due to a health condition.
  • A health practitioner who was intoxicated by alcohol or other substances outside of work.

Someone has reported me to AHPRA, what do I do?

Do not discuss the matter with AHPRA until you have sought advice. Please contact the ANMF for guidance.

AHPRA may contact you via telephone in the first instance. AHPRA can make a record of your telephone conversation, and if you are upset at the time of the telephone call you may say something that may be detrimental to your interests.

Please be reminded of your obligations per the Code of Conduct for nurses and ensure your communication with Regulatory Advisors is appropriate. Politely advise the Regulatory Advisor you would like to seek advice before speaking with them.

Do not contact the person who has made the complaint, unless the person is your ongoing treating practitioner.