In this edition:

Overhaul of mandatory reporting laws for health practitioners welcomed

Following lobbying by a number of industry bodies, Federal, State and Territory Health Ministers will consult with health practitioners and consumer groups to develop a proposal for a nationally consistent approach to mandatory reporting obligations for health practitioners. The proposal for the approach will be considered at the next COAG Health Council meeting in November 2017.

Many bodies within the sector support the move towards a national scheme with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) stating the current laws “deter health practitioners from seeking early treatment for health conditions that could impair their performance”. The AMA believe changes will assist health practitioners to access the care they need.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) also approves of the proposal stating the changes “can strengthen support for practitioners with health issues and move away from judging and punishing them”.

To read the AMA’s statement, click here.

To read RACGP’s media release, click here.

Victoria to monitor prescribing of controlled drugs

The Victorian Health Minister has announced a $30 million system to monitor the distribution of controlled drugs in real time. This announcement comes after 372 Victorians died from an overdose of prescription medicine in 2016. Benzodiazepines contribute to most prescription drug-related deaths in Victoria.

Many prescription medicine overdoses result from people ‘prescription shopping’ from multiple doctors and pharmacies. The centralised system will be designed to save lives by identifying misuse and providing support earlier.

The system will monitor prescription medicines that are causing the greatest harm. These include Schedule 8 medicines, which cover strong painkillers such as morphine and oxycodone. Other high-risk medicines to be monitored include all benzodiazepines (used for anxiety and insomnia), ‘Z class’ medicines (also used for insomnia), as well as quetiapine (an anti-psychotic).

Codeine will also be monitored, but will be included at a later stage to allow clinicians time to adjust to the rescheduling of over-the-counter codeine products to prescription.

Value of health data highlighted in latest edition of Australian Health Review

An article published in the Australian Health Review has sought to quantify and understand the utilisation of linked hospital data for research purposes across Australia.

A systematic review was conducted of all articles published from 1946 to December 2014 on linked data usage. The major contributors were from WA and NSW, with more than 80% of publications coming from these states.

The article identified that, while Australia has made significant investments in improving its data linkage capabilities over the past 20 years, there remained many barriers.

The full article can be accessed here.

AHPRA lays charges against a corporation for false and misleading advertising

For the first time, AHPRA has used its powers to bring a total of eight charges against a corporation for false and misleading advertising and for creating an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment in consumers.

The corporation (which has not been publicly named) faces a fine of up to $80,000.

AHPRA’s actions follow its launch of the new Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy, which aims to ensure the public is safe from false or misleading claims and helps consumers make informed choices about their healthcare.

AHPRA has previously only used these powers against individual health practitioners. Where these powers are used, National Boards may also decide that such actions raise concern about the practitioner’s conduct which may ultimately result in restrictions on the practitioner’s registration.

Read AHPRA’s media release here.