Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting
Confidentiality is an integral part of engaging in psychological treatment. Mandatory reporting laws have been identified as a barrier towards health care providers seeking mental health treatment. There have been misperceptions around the current requirements under mandatory reporting. Health professionals who seek psychological treatment will not be automatically reported.
Under the National Law, all registered health practitioners have mandatory reporting responsibilities, as well as an ethical and professional obligation to protect and promote public health and safe health care. These laws require that a health practitioner report another health practitioner if they have formed a reasonable belief that the practitioner has behaved in a way which presents a serious risk to the public.
Under the current National Law (Section 140), ‘notifiable conduct’ is defined as being when a registered health practitioner has:
In recent years, the Council of Australian Government Health Council, federal, state and territory health ministers unanimously agreed to amend National Law to exempt treating health practitioners from the mandatory reporting of impaired doctors. The proposed changes followed recognition of the significant barrier reporting laws presented to doctors seeking mental health treatment.
Changes to mandatory notification came into effect on 1st March 2020. Unfortunately, these changes did not go as far as to exempt treating practitioners from mandatory notification. However, they took a step in the right direction. In short, the threshold for a treating practitioner to make a mandatory report with regards to a patient practitioner has been heightened. This means that there must be evidence that the patient practitioner poses substantial risk to the community. A number of factors is also considered in determining the need for reporting including the severity of the impairment, whether the practitioner works individually or as part of a team, or is working under supervision, or the nature of work they are engaged in.
Treating psychologists and other health practitioners are still required to report instances of sexual misconduct, intoxication at work and practice outside of accepted standards.