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Health Bulletin 13 May 2019

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

  • Law Council of Australia makes submission on the social and economic benefits of improving mental health
  • Public consultation on the regulation of medical practitioners providing complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments
  • Guidance on managing voluntary assisted dying for health services
  • ACCC advice to NDIS providers
  • Are you paying superannuation on annual leave loading?
  • Consultation on draft NSQHS Standards User Guide for Medication Management in Cancer Care
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    Law Council of Australia makes submission on the social and economic benefits of improving mental health

    A submission has been made by the Law Council of Australia (Council) to the Productivity Commission in relation to the inquiry into the social and economic benefits of improving mental health. The submission contains two major sections: Part I addresses questions relating to the intersection between mental health and the justice system, and Part II considers how the legal profession has responded to challenges relating to mental health within its membership. 

    The submission is significantly informed by the findings in the Council’s review into access to justice within Australia, known as the Justice Project. This was overseen by former Chief Justice of the High Court, the Honourable Robert French AC. 

    Part I of the submission identifies that there is a high prevalence of mental disorders within the Australian population, with up to 8.6 million Australians experiencing conditions such as depression or anxiety. From that group, there is an overrepresentation of people with mental illness who are incarcerated. The submission further identifies issues relating to increased recidivism, gaps in critical support services, as well as how to improve the mental health of prospective re-offenders.

    Part II of the submission identifies the prevalence of mental health in the legal profession. In addition to well-known contributors to mental health conditions, such as bullying or harassment, the impact of vicarious trauma on those in the profession is being research more, to encourage mentally healthy legal workplaces. 

    For more information, access the Council’s submission here.

     

    Public consultation on the regulation of medical practitioners providing complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments

    The Medical Board of Australia has released a public consultation paper that invites feedback on the issues and options for clearer regulation of medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments. This area of practice refers to any assessment, diagnostic technique or procedure, diagnosis, practice, medicine, therapy or treatment that is not usually considered to be part of conventional medicine, and includes the unconventional use of approved medical devices and therapies.

    This process seeks to address concerns raised by stakeholders about this area of practice, which suggest that additional guidance for medical practitioners is required to ensure safe practice and adequate safeguards for patients.

    The paper seeks public input on draft guidelines on good medical practice relating to complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments. It further invites feedback on such matters as the proposed definition and whether the current regulation of such medical practitioners is adequate to protect patients or whether additional safeguards are needed.

    Click here for more details about the public submission process.

     

    Guidance on managing voluntary assisted dying for health services

    In time for the introduction of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in Victoria on 19 June 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has introduced guidance for health services on how to best manage VAD.The guidance contains detailed information on:

    1. the VAD medication, including requirements for existing medication to be ceased prior to the VAD medication being taken;
    2. options for storing the VAD medication within the health service, which includes the possibility of storing the medication securely in accordance with the health service’s practices, provided the person accessing VAD may access the medication at all times;
    3. details of the locked box that the VAD medication will be dispensed in (see an example on page 2);
    4. matters that should be addressed during clinical handover for health practitioners where the health service is aware that a person is in possession of VAD medication; and
    5. the roles and responsibilities of the medical practitioners and other health practitioners in the administration of the VAD medication (whether by self-administration or practitioner administration).

    With only just over a month before the law commences, now is the time for health services and aged care providers to be preparing by putting in place policies, procedures and practices which reflect your organisation’s position and capabilities to support those seeking to access VAD.

    Read the DHHS guidance material for health services here.

     

    ACCC advice to NDIS providers

    The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recently reminded service providers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) that supported participants are still entitled to their consumer rights when purchasing goods and services under the NDIS.

    From 1 July 2019, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) will operate Australia-wide, with the exception of Western Australia (where the NDIS Commission will operate from 1 July 2020). The NDIS Commission will handle complaints from NDIS participants, including those regarding rights under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which includes the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The NDIS Commission will also manage registration of NDIS providers and oversight of service quality and safety.

    The ACCC advises that these functions, in particular regarding consumer rights and complaints, are particularly important when it comes to vulnerable people and people with disability. The ACL provides minimum consumer guarantees that:

    • goods are of acceptable quality;
    • goods sold will match their description;
    • services will be provided with due care and skill;
    • services will be provided within a reasonable time; and
    • goods and services will be fit for purpose.

    A consumer may be entitled to a right of repair, replacement or refund if these guarantees are not met.

    In collaboration with ACL regulators, the National Disability Insurance Agency, and disability support and advocacy organisations, the NDIS Commission has developed resources for consumers who live with a disability.

    Read the ACCC media release here, and click here for access to the free resources developed by the NDIS Commission.

     

    Are you paying superannuation on annual leave loading?

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has recently confirmed that generally, an employee who is entitled to annual leave loading payments should have those payments included in the calculation of ordinary time earnings (OTE) for superannuation purposes. This does not apply if an award, enterprise agreement, policy or employment agreement explicitly provides that the loading is paid in compensation for the loss of the ability to work overtime.

    Annual leave loading is paid to many employees in the health sector. Historically, many employers and outsourced payroll services have not included annual leave loading in OTE for superannuation purposes.

    Health sector employers should promptly review their internal or external payroll practices to ensure compliance with the ATO’s position. 

    For more information, please see the Russell Kennedy Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team alert.

     

    Consultation on draft NSQHS Standards User Guide for Medication Management in Cancer Care

    The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (Commission) is seeking public consultation on the draft NSQHS Standards User Guide for Medication Management in Cancer Care (User Guide).

    The purpose of this draft User Guide is to highlight key safety and quality systems and processes that are supported by, or rely on, specific actions in the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. It is relevant to all health services that are involved in the prescribing, verifying, compounding, dispensing, administering and handling of anticancer medicines.

    The project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health in response to recent chemotherapy-related incidents that occurred in different parts of Australia. The Commission used findings from reviews conducted into these incidents, and consulted broadly with clinicians, consumers, cancer services and the sector to identify priority areas to be addressed in this draft User Guide.

    Public consultation on the User Guide has commenced and will run until 24 May 2019.

    For more information about the Draft User Guide, please see here.

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