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Making the PSR fair

The Professional Services Review (PSR) has been a source of anxiety for medical practitioners in recent years. There have been countless reports of unfair PSR treatment by many of the doctors who came under review.

29 Mar 2011

By AMA Vice President Dr Steve Hambleton

The Professional Services Review (PSR) has been a source of anxiety for medical practitioners in recent years.

There have been countless reports of unfair PSR treatment by many of the doctors who came under review.

The situation was made worse by claims in the media by PSR Director Dr Tony Webber citing isolated examples of inappropriate practice and claiming that they were widespread – putting a headline ahead of the facts.

These claims were causing the profession to lose faith in the PSR process.

They were forcing doctors to practise with the pervasive fear that there might one day be a knock at the door for ‘inappropriate practice’.

The AMA has been working with the PSR and the Department of Health and Ageing to address concerns about the lack of transparency in the PSR system and the perceived lack of natural justice afforded to persons under review.

We have been very pleased with the PSR’s willingness to act on these concerns and its agreement to make its processes more transparent by documenting them and making them publicly available.

The PSR has now provided the AMA with drafts of those documents for comment.

This has given the AMA an opportunity to critique the PSR processes and, where necessary, suggest improvements.

Throughout this exercise, we have been able to suggest changes that will ensure that the PSR Panel is properly representative of the medical profession, the rights of persons under review are protected, and the discretion of decision makers within the process is exercised within defined limits.

The PSR has also undertaken to produce a comprehensive guide to the PSR process for persons under review.

This guide and the other documents will mean that those under review, and their legal representatives, will be able to make sure that the proper processes are followed.

In recent years, statements made by the PSR Director in his ‘Report to the Professions’ have been picked up by the media and, at times, used to paint the medical profession in a bad light.

The AMA has questioned this as a valid method to educate the profession about undesirable practice.

The AMA has suggested that the public reporting of the PSR should be limited to the facts of matters decided by a PSR Committee, and no commentary should be made extrapolating those facts to the wider profession.

The PSR and the DoHA have agreed to explore with the AMA ways in which the valuable insights about possible trends in clinical practice that come to the attention of the PSR could be communicated directly to the medical profession.

The AMA is very keen to see the Director provide this feedback to the profession through the medical colleges - the institutions tasked with setting clinical standards and professional development.

The AMA will continue to work with the PSR on these various issues over the coming months.

You will see the results of these efforts in publicly released guidelines.


Published: 29 Mar 2011