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Connect Magazine Issue 9 - Communication

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Advocacy activities for a fairer environment Georgie Haysom BSc, LLB (Hons) LLM (Bioethics), GAICD Head of Advocacy At a time of shifting social attitudes and expectations, Avant's advocacy role is particularly important in helping shape health policy in a way that appropriately balances public protection with the interests of the profession. Medical indemnity schemes Avant has advocated strongly for the continuation of the medical indemnity schemes in its submission to the Department of Health's first principles review. The schemes have served the Australian community well since they were introduced following the crisis of the early 2000s. Doctors have been able to access medical indemnity cover and there has been stability in doctors' premiums, which have helped maintain patient access and ensured ongoing support to patient's rights under common law. In our view the schemes should be retained; introducing uncertainty into this sector is counterproductive and if the schemes were removed, it is not clear how the system would respond in the event of another period of crisis. We will continue to represent our members' interest as the review continues over the coming months. Mandatory reporting For several years, Avant has been advocating for the national adoption of the mandatory reporting exemption for treating health practitioners that currently applies in Western Australia. With the recent focus on doctor distress, the argument that the mandatory reporting requirement creates a significant barrier to doctors seeking treatment, has attracted political attention. Doctor in training at Avant This year, we are delighted to welcome GP registrar, Dr Nicole Fardell, as Avant's first Doctor in Training Medical Advisor. Nicole joined Avant in August 2017 working part-time for 12 months combined with her part-time clinical training in general practice. Working as a Medical Advisor, Nicole primarily focuses on matters affecting doctors in training and helps them navigate the complexities of the disciplinary or legal system. This new role complements the important function our Doctor in Training Advisory Council serves in helping us understand the context in which our trainee doctor members are practising. It is designed to enable a trainee to develop new skills they can share with their peers, as well as offering Avant a deeper insight into the experiences of junior doctors, which in turn can help us develop better targeted support for our members. The advocacy aspect of the role also offers the opportunity to develop research, communication and leadership skills, for example, by exploring issues affecting trainees' health and wellbeing, or contributing to discussions on efforts to address bullying in medicine and training programs. Senior Medical Officer Dr Penny Browne is passionate about the Doctor in Training at Avant program. She believes giving doctors at an early career stage a better understanding of medico-legal aspects of practice will help lead a quality and safety approach to medical practice for the next generation of doctors. We expect the role will be an ongoing opportunity for doctors in training. Despite being recommended by several inquiries, the exemption is yet to be adopted nationally. Following renewed calls from Avant and other doctors' organisations, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council recently committed to a consistent national approach. The health ministers have agreed 'doctors should be able to seek treatment for health issues with confidentiality, while also preserving the requirement for patient safety'. At its November 2017 meeting, the COAG Health Council agreed to continue to progress towards a nationally consistent model. Details of the model remain unclear, but it is expected to be finalised before the end of 2017. Dr Nicole Fardell BA, MBBS, MIPH 22 Connect | Issue 09 | avant.org.au/publications

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