Terms of Reference

The medical complaints process in Australia, with particular reference to:

  1. the prevalence of bullying and harassment in Australia’s medical profession;
  2. any barriers, whether real or perceived, to medical practitioners reporting bullying and harassment;
  3. the roles of the Medical Board of Australia, the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency and other relevant organisations in managing investigations into the professional conduct (including allegations of bullying and harassment), performance or health of a registered medical practitioner or student;
  4. the operation of the Health Practitioners Regulation National Law Act 2009 (the National Law), particularly as it relates to the complaints handling process;
  5. whether the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, established under the National Law, results in better health outcomes for patients, and supports a world-class standard of medical care in Australia;
  6. the benefits of ‘benchmarking’ complaints about complication rates of particular medical practitioners against complication rates for the same procedure against other similarly qualified and experienced medical practitioners when assessing complaints;
  7. the desirability of requiring complainants to sign a declaration that their complaint is being made in good faith; and
  8. any related matters.

Guidance on terms of reference

To guide the inquiry process, the committee would like to provide clarity on how it is interpreting the terms of reference (ToR). The overarching issue under inquiry is the prevalence of bullying and harassment within Australia’s medical profession (ToR a).

The other ToR should be read according to how they relate to bullying and harassment within Australia’s medical profession, and how such bullying and harassment may ultimately impact on individual medical practitioners and patient outcomes.

Notes on individual ToR

ToR a     This is the overarching issue under inquiry. The committee defines 'Australia's medical profession' as including both nurses/midwives and medical practitioners (doctors), as well as students for those professions.

ToR b      Is there anything preventing medical practitioners from reporting bullying and harassment?

ToR c      Are the complaints and investigation processes of the relevant medical boards, nursing and midwifery boards and AHPRA able to be used vexatiously for bullying or harassment, particularly by other medical professionals?

ToR d      Does the legal framework under which the relevant medical boards and AHPRA operate have appropriate safeguards against being used vexatiously for bullying or harassment?

ToR e      Has nationalising the registration and monitoring of medical practitioners improved medical care in Australia?

ToR f       Should there be stronger requirements for patient outcome specific data to be used both in lodging and investigating complaints?

ToR g      Is there evidence to suggest vexatious complaints are being made, and if so, what systems could be put in place to reduce the prevalence?

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3515

Past Public Hearings

22 Nov 2016: Canberra
01 Nov 2016: Sydney


Inquiry Status

Submissions Closed

How to make a submission

The committee invites individuals and organisations to send in their opinions and proposals in writing (submissions)


If you require any special arrangements to enable you to participate in the Committee's inquiry, please contact the Committee Secretariat.

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