Health Practitioner Regulation: Has the National Law Produced National Outcomes in Serious Disciplinary Matters?
- SAGE Publications
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Federal Law Review, 2019, 47 (4), pp. 631 - 654
- Issue Date:
Since 2010, a national scheme regulates the registration, accreditation and discipline of health professionals in Australia (the ‘National Law’). This research examines disciplinary cases from tribunals nationwide to address the question: Has the national regulation of health professionals produced consistency in outcomes in serious cases of professional misconduct? All publicly available Australian tribunal-level decisions concerning complaints of serious misconduct and/or impairment brought against the five most populous regulated health professions (nurses and midwives, doctors, psychologists, pharmacists and dentists) were analysed for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2017. Each case was coded by reference to a typology of misconduct, practitioner characteristics and outcome, allowing for comparisons to be drawn both as between the professions and as between jurisdictions. Major disparities were identified in outcomes across the professions, with doctors being subject to less severe outcomes than other professions, in particular in comparison with nurses, even when the same main head of misconduct was in issue. Marked disparities were also identified between outcomes in different states and territories, suggesting that the National Law is not being applied in a uniform manner. This article examines these disparities and explores possible contributing factors.