Tougher new penalties for people holding themselves out to be registered health practitioners
From 1 July, amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law will see people who pretend to be registered practitioners face the possibility of a maximum term of three years imprisonment per offence.
This is the first time that criminal proceedings leading to jail time can now be launched by AHPRA.
Maximum fines have also been doubled, from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual, and from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence for a corporate entity.
“When someone claims to be a registered health practitioner, it’s a gross violation and they deserve to feel the full force of the law,” said AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher.
“We’re very grateful that all health ministers around Australia have supported these amendments and increased powers for us.”
Offences under the law include people falsely claiming to be a registered practitioner when they are not, using a protected title when not qualified to do so, and performing restricted acts that can only be done by certain registered practitioners.
AHPRA investigates complaints and can then make the decision to escalate them to prosecution under the national law.
“We do want the community to come forward and tell us if they have concerns,” said Mr Fletcher.
“Ultimately our role as a regulator is to keep the public safe. We believe these changes will allow us to provide greater protections to the public.”
With the prospect of being sent to jail, these now become indictable offences under the law, he said.
“We need to work with directors of prosecution and make sure we have all the information in a form that is suitable for a criminal prosecution.”
It is then up to the courts to decide what penalty is given for each offence, for example, whether the offender should receive a jail sentence or a fine and to what extent.
AHPRA has successfully completed more than 50 prosecutions for offences under the National Law since 2014.
Two of these have involved pharmacists – most recently in April this year when a man was fined $10,000 for holding himself out as a registered pharmacist, and ordered to pay the AHPRA’s legal costs of $4,000.
The man had allegedly earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy overseas, and although he never completed the course required for him to register and practice in Australia, he was working for his parents who owned a pharmacy in Sydney.
In a second case, AHPRA charged a man for holding himself out as a registered pharmacist while he was suspended.
AHPRA alleged that despite this suspension, the man continued to open and operate the pharmacy alone without a registered pharmacist on duty.
The NSW Local Court imposed an aggregate fine of $24,500, and he was also ordered to pay legal costs to AHPRA of $15,000.
If you have a concern about a practitioner, let AHPRA know on 1300 419 495.