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Wednesday / May 22.
HomeminewsSteady Increase in Complaints: Ahpra

Steady Increase in Complaints: Ahpra

There has been a “steady increase” in complaints against health professionals – including optometrists – over the past year, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) annual report has revealed.

Ahpra’s annual report for 2021/22 shows that Australia-wide there were 68 complaints lodged against 61 optometrists (including data from the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in Queensland and the Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in New South Wales).

… most complaints (74.3%) came directly from a patient, relative or member of the public and more than half the complaints (57.1%) related to clinical care

This accounts for 0.9% of the profession, compared with 0.7% of the profession who were the subject of notifications in 2020-21.

“The past year has seen our healthcare systems under exceptional pressure and supporting our health workforce is more important than ever,” Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.

“We have aimed to play our part fully to ensure all Australians have access to safe, professional and high-quality registered health practitioners.”

He said there was a steady increase in notifications raising concerns about the conduct, performance, or impairment of a registered health practitioners across the 12 regulated health professions. However, over 60% of these notifications did not require regulatory action, with practitioners or their employers taking steps to resolve the issue.

Optometry Complaints

For optometry, most complaints (74.3%) came directly from a patient, relative or member of the public and more than half the complaints (57.1%) related to clinical care.

Other complaints related to documentation (8.6%), communication (5.7%), behaviour and confidentiality (both 2.9%).

There were two mandatory notifications received in the past year, one about professional standards. In one case, immediate action was taken against the practitioner.

Just over 15% of notifications received by Ahpra were closed with conditions being imposed on the optometrists’ registration.

Additionally, 10 practitioners were monitored by Ahpra in the reporting period – three for performance, one for a prohibited practitioner / student and six for suitability / eligibility for registration.

Four criminal offences complaints were made – one for title protection, one for practice protection and two for advertising breaches. All four cases have been closed.

None of the optometry notifications dealt with by Ahpra were referred to an adjudication body.

Profession Snapshot

Aphra says there are 6,500 optometrists in Australia, the majority are women (57.6%) and it’s a young workforce, with 34.8% aged 25-34 years.

Just 0.3% of the optometry profession identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Although this has increased on the 2020-21 figure of 0.2%, it remains among the lowest rates of representation across the 12 regulated health.