If the Medical Council calls, will I end up suspended?

A number of NCAT decisions have been featured in recent editions of our doctors' newsletter. However, most practitioners who come to the attention of the Medical Council do not end up at the Tribunal. We explore a more common practitioner interaction with the Council – a Performance Assessment – what is it, how is it established and why are they held?

Pathway to a Performance Assessment

When a complaint about a practitioner is referred to the Council, a sub-committee (that includes medical practitioners and lay members) assess the complaint. The sub-committee considers the complaint, a practitioner’s complaint history, the nature of their current practise and their response to the complaint. If the complaint raises concerns that areas of the practitioner’s performance are below the standard reasonably expected of a doctor of an equivalent training or experience, the practitioner will be asked to attend a Performance Assessment.

What is Performance Assessment?

A Performance Assessment is conducted, by 2-3 registered practitioners including at least one from the same field as the doctor being assessed.  The assessment identifies whether there are any aspects of the doctor’s professional performance that presents a risk to the public, or fails to meet expected standards. It allows the assessors to make recommendations to the Council about possible outcomes that may be appropriate.  A Performance Assessment is non-disciplinary and aims to identify areas where performance improvements can be made by the practitioner.

A Performance Assessment may include a general interview, medical records review, observation of consultations, procedures or operations, a clinical practice interview, data audit or a review of prescribing. Council determines what is required when referring a practitioner to an assessment based on the nature of the complaint and the characteristics of a doctor’s practice.

What happens next?

A Council Committee will review the report and recommendations provided by the assessors. If the practitioner’s performance is considered to be unsatisfactory, the Council may refer them to a Performance Review Panel. Where appropriate, the Council may also invite the practitioner to consent to conditions on their registration in lieu of attending a Performance Review Panel.

Examples of common performance related conditions which the Council can impose include requiring a practitioner to meet with a supervisor, participate in a particular training program. The Performance Assessment process may also establish that there are no areas of concern to be addressed, resulting in an outcome of no further action, or advice to the practitioner on how to improve their practise.