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14 Dec 2015

Medical practitioners are required, as a condition of their registration under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, to follow the Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia in order to practice. Other registered health practitioners must also abide by a code of conduct specific to their profession in order to practice.

But how are the public protected from unethical conduct by health workers who don’t fall under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme?

For some years, the AMA has lobbied for the introduction of a national framework to protect the public from incompetent and unethical health care workers.

Although New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia already have some form of legislative control, the approaches are inconsistent, and a health worker prohibited from practising in one of those states could still set up practise in another State.

After a long consultative process, in April 2015 all State and Territory governments agreed to adopt the National Code of Conduct for Health Workers (National Code), and to introduce a supporting code-regulation regime, including mutual recognition of prohibition orders across Australia.

Queensland is the first state to give the agreement effect. Starting from 1 October 2015, health care workers in Queensland who are not registered under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme will be regulated under the National Code.

The National Code sets national standards of conduct and practice for all health care workers, against which disciplinary action can be taken such as the issuing of a prohibition order (see below for more detail on code requirements). It applies to many occupations, such as dieticians, naturopaths, paramedics, speech pathologists, counsellors and anaesthetic assistants.

The Code will allow State governments to effectively and consistently deal with health care workers who are incompetent or engage in exploitative, predatory or illegal conduct.

It should be noted that the Code can also apply to registered health practitioners in situations where a practitioner is practising outside their scope of practice - for example, a registered medical practitioner providing naturopath services.

In its 2014 submission, the AMA argued against the Code applying to registered health practitioners.

We considered that the relevant national registration board should deal with any concerns or complaints about its registrants practicing outside their scope of practice, regardless of whether the practitioner has ventured into a scope of practice that requires more or less qualifications than their registration.

It will be difficult for a consumer to separate a registered health practitioner’s scope of practice from other services they may provide, and therefore know which avenue to pursue if they have concerns about the practitioner.

The AMA’s submission is at

Information on the new Queensland National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers is at:

Breaches of the Code within Queensland can be reported to the independent Queensland Health Ombudsman at

The National Code includes clauses requiring health care workers to:

  • provide services in a safe and ethical manner;
  • obtain consent;
  • engage in appropriate conduct in relation to treatment advice;
  • report concerns about treatment or care provided by other health care workers;
  • take appropriate action in response to adverse events;
  • adopt standard precautions for infection control;
  • take appropriate action if diagnosed with infectious medical conditions;
  • not make claims to cure certain serious illnesses;
  • not misinform their clients;
  • not practice under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • not financially exploit clients;
  • not engage in sexual misconduct;
  • comply with relevant privacy laws;
  • keep appropriate records;
  • be covered by appropriate insurance; and
  • display code and other information.


Published: 14 Dec 2015