Uralla GP says Medical Board of Australia's decision for doctor crackdown is a good idea

CRACKDOWN: Doctors over 70 will have to undergo regular health checks to prove they are fit to practise. Photo: John Taggart.
CRACKDOWN: Doctors over 70 will have to undergo regular health checks to prove they are fit to practise. Photo: John Taggart.

A crackdown on doctors by the Medical Board of Australia is a good idea, Uralla Medical Centre’s Dr Ricardo Al-Khouri said.

The new framework will mean Australian doctors aged 70 or over will have to undergo regular health checks to prove they are fit to practise, as part of a new plan to weed out dangerous medical professionals.

“I agree with it for high-risk doctors and doctors with many complaints,” Dr Al-Khouri told Fairfax Media.

“Many doctors are very old-fashioned so I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It’s been applied in the UK and was very useful.”

Those who work in isolation, such as solo GPs, will also face additional scrutiny, as will those who have received multiple proven complaints against them.

Board Chair Joanna Flynn said the new framework will be implemented progressively, with some elements already in place and others requiring significant planning, consultation and development.

“We have designed a framework that will justify and strengthen the trust that the Australian community has in their doctors,” she said during the announcement on Tuesday.

“It is focussed on patient safety and will support doctors to provide high quality care throughout their working lives.

“Nothing is going to change tomorrow for individual doctors.

“We will be consulting widely and seeking expert advice on many elements of the framework.”

Dr Al-Khouri said assessing a doctors cognitive ability and their knowledge of new medicines and technologies would be an important part of the framework.

“I think any doctor that’s not interested in knowing new things would be gradually losing his or her knowledge about how to treat,” he said.

“Plus maybe the cognitive matter, of course, that’s the other thing. There’s going to be some sort of assessment but we don’t know how.”

Studies have found that badly performing doctors are more likely to be older men. Other risk factors for poor performance include being trained overseas and practising away from other colleagues.

Of the 111,000 registered medical practitioners in Australia, an estimated 5596 are aged over 70 and 865 aged over 80 – about 6 per cent of the total.

But Dr Bastian Seidel, president of the college of GPs, said he was concerned about tests for older doctors.

“A heavy-handed approach would fail the public and it would certainly fail practitioners who have given decades of their lives to the profession,” Dr Seidel said.