What is mandatory reporting and what and how do I report?
All registered health practitioners have a professional and ethical obligation to protect and promote public health and safe healthcare.
Health practitioners and their employers and education providers also have mandatory reporting responsibilities under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW).
Education providers, registered health practitioners and their employers must tell the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) if they have formed a reasonable belief that a registered health practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes notifiable conduct.
What concerns may trigger a mandatory notification?
There are four concerns that may trigger a mandatory notification. Depending on the type of concern, you must assess the risk of harm to the public when deciding whether to make a mandatory notification. The four concerns are:
- intoxication while practising
- significant departure from accepted professional standards
- sexual misconduct.
There is only one concern that may trigger a mandatory notification about a student:
- impairment that places the public at substantial risk of harm.
A notification about a student must also be based upon a reasonable belief that an incident or behaviour occurred.
You can find out more about mandatory notifications on the AHPRA website.
How do I make a mandatory report to protect a child?
The law requires all NSW health practitioners, including doctors, to report to welfare authorities if they treat a child and they have reasonable grounds to suspect that child is at risk of significant harm. The harm might be in any of the following ways:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- psychological harm
- the child or young person is a risk to themselves or others
- the child is significantly affected by carer concerns such as substance abuse, mental health or domestic violence.
It is mandatory to make a report about children aged 0-15 years. While it is not mandatory to report possible harm to unborn children or children aged 16-17, professional judgement should be used in each case to decide whether to do so.
The NSW Department of Family and Community Services has published a summary of the mandatory reporting requirements. It also has a guide to help practitioners decide whether a child is at risk of the level of harm that would require a report.
Mandatory reporting requirements differ slightly between states and territories. If you practise outside of NSW, click here for more information.