Parking fines are probably not relevant to practice

3 minute read

The RACGP has roasted the regulator’s vague and ‘verbose’ language in a submission on criminal history checks.

The royal college has come out swinging in a submission to AHPRA’s routine review of its criminal history registration standard, which requires doctors in some states to fess up to parking and speeding fines.

Under the current standard, which was last reviewed in 2015, doctors must inform AHPRA of every charge, finding of guilt and conviction they have received, even if the offence was more than a decade prior.

Offences that are considered criminal vary from state to state.

Doctors in Western Australia, for instance, must disclose a conviction for unpaid parking fines, Queensland clinicians have to disclose if they’ve pleaded guilty to an offence where no conviction was recorded and Tasmanian doctors must disclose all speeding and parking fines.

“AHPRA has a screening process in place which ensures that no action is taken against practitioners if they notify us of minor offences like parking tickets,” a spokesman for the regulator said.

Still, the regulator does warn that if it turns up any criminal history through the screening process that was not disclosed in the application, it will take a lot longer to finalise registration.

Last year, AHPRA received about 76,000 criminal history checks in total, and only denied the applications of six practitioners on the grounds of criminal history.

Responding to a review question on whether it was appropriate for AHPRA to require full disclosure of criminal history, the RACGP said it was clear that criminal history only affects registration status in “exceptionally limited” circumstances, bringing into question the utility of the exercise.

“Some minor offences (e.g. parking fines) are not relevant to clinical practice and should not have to be declared, particularly if years have passed since the offence occurred,” the college said.

“While laws differ between jurisdictions, and in turn impact what types of offences practitioners must declare, AHPRA should enforce a standardised approach to declarations to ensure national consistency.”

What really drew the college’s ire, however, was a question on whether AHPRA should publish an explanatory document talking through how it considers the factors in the criminal history registration standard.

“Attachment B [the explanatory document] is largely a more verbose version of Attachment A [the standard itself], with little additional information or insight given,” the college said.

“Most of the statements are vague descriptions of issues that influence decision-making, with wording such as ‘more’, ‘lesser’ and ‘may’ used.”

The RACGP suggested that any explanatory document should be reframed around the principles and values that underlie decision-making.

It also criticised a document that AHPRA had provided which attempted to categorise offence types by likely relevance to a clinician’s registration.

“Category A” offences like homicide, aggravated assault and sexual assault, AHPRA argued, are “of a nature and gravity that may be presumed to be so serious they are incompatible with the individual being granted or maintaining registration as a health practitioner … except in the most extraordinary of cases”.

Animal cruelty, obscene exposure and repeat drunk or dangerous driving were put under “category B”, where AHPRA said it would more closely consider the circumstances and passage of time when looking at registration.

The final category were practices that were unlikely to be considered relevant to the health profession, like convictions for minor drug offences, public nuisance and general parking or speeding fines.

The college said it found the categories “inconsistent and highly subjective” – two categories, it pointed out, include domestic violence.

The consultation closed on 14 September.

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