Chiropractic profession outperforms all others on number of complaints

Chiropractors make up 0.8 per cent of all registered health practitioners across the National Scheme, and yet complaints about possible statutory offences by chiropractors in 2015-16 constituted 44.6 per cent of all such complaints across all of the 14 registered health professions.

The figures are revealed in a profession-specific annual report summary titled “Managing risk to the public: Regulation at work in Australia”. This looks into the work of the Chiropractic Board of Australia over the year to 30 June 2016 and forms part of the 2015-16 annual report of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Chiropractors also received nearly twice the national average for notifications: 2.8 per cent of chiropractors compared with 1.5 per cent across all professions.

“Statutory offences” are breaches of the National Law, committed by registered health practitioners and unregistered individuals. These include unlawful use of a protected title; performing a restricted act; holding out (claims by individuals or organisations as to registration); and unlawful advertising. “Notifications” covers all complaints or concerns.

As at 30 June 2016, there were 5167 registered chiropractors in Australia, making up 0.8 per cent of all registered health practitioners. Women made up 38.5 per cent of the profession.

The total number of registered chiropractic students decreased by 34.5 per cent compared to 2014/15 (to 1240).

It is the number of complaints and possible offences which inspired the CBA to conduct a voluntary, anonymous survey of chiropractors to gain a better understanding of practitioners’ knowledge of their obligations under the National Law.

82 notifications (complaints or concerns) were lodged with AHPRA about chiropractors during the year. 601 matters were raised about possible statutory offences relating to chiropractic services in 2015/16 – almost all of these related to unlawful advertising.

These statutory offence complaints constitute 44.6 per cent of all such matters received across all 14 registered health professions, and almost double the rate of notifications across those professions.

Despite these staggering numbers, there is only one reference to offences in the report’s Year in Review: “We worked closely with AHPRA to develop and refine the processes for managing offences under the National Law, particularly in relation to advertising, to ensure matters that pose the highest risk to the health and safety of the public are dealt with as quickly as possible.”

There are no mentions at all of the figures – or even of offences per se – in the annual report message from Wayne Minter, chair of the Chiropractic Board of Australia, nor the joint message from Michael Gorton, chair of AHPRA’s Agency Management Committee, and Martin Fletcher, CEO of AHPRA.

There are, however, several pages of data on offences, complaints and resolutions.

In 2015/16, the Board conducted a voluntary, anonymous email survey of chiropractors. The report says that “The high response rate has provided the Board with a better understanding of chiropractors’ knowledge of their obligations under the National Law, and the areas in which it may need to provide more regulatory guidance.”

The report summary does not include the results of that survey.

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