The value for you (and your family) of having an attending physician


ALL physicians should have their own attending physician, but according to the Physician Health Advisory Service, more than 50% of doctors do not.

But where is the harm? Surely a script or two can’t hurt? We are looking at two different scenarios.

The general registrar

You enjoy a long-awaited family BBQ after the end of confinement and everyone enjoys the beautiful spring weather. You feel relaxed and not thinking about work when your younger sister comes to see you.

“May I ask for a very big favor?” “

Your heart sinks because you know she is going to ask you for a script. She says she’s out of Panadeine (GlaxoSmithKline) and has a terrible headache. She has to work that night and she doesn’t want to make herself sick. You write the script and tell him it’s the last time.

You forget everything, until two months later when you receive a letter from Ahpra requesting a medical report and medical record for one of your patients. The patient, a nurse with a different last name from yours (your sister), is being investigated by the Board of Nursing and Midwifery for concerns about codeine abuse. You realize that you have no notes and now you have to confess and disclose your relationship with Ahpra.

The disabled general practitioner

You are one year from retirement after 45 years of practice. Your staff have worked with you for several years and often tease you about your terrible memory. You continue to work full time, despite chronic pain from osteoarthritis, decreased cognition and sleep problems.

You don’t have your own GP and don’t think you need one! As a solo practitioner, you don’t have time to see a doctor; if you need a script or a reference, you write it yourself.

Most of your patients are older, long-term patients, and they seem happy to laugh at your “fun ways”, but that changes when one of your patient’s son reports to Ahpra.

The long complaint includes a number of examples of when you were not at your best. Ahpra starts talking about a possible impairment and you are shocked when they issue an immediate action notice upon receipt of your prescription history.

You are surprised at how many scripts you have written for yourself over the past year, including Valium (Roche), Amitriptyline (Sandoz), and Endone (Aspen Pharma). You remember writing a weird script, but it looks so much worse now that it’s all listed.

Ahpra’s point of view

According to Good medical practice: a code of conduct for physicians in Australia, good medical practices include:

  • Have a general practitioner.
  • Seek independent, objective advice when you need medical attention and be aware of the risks of self-diagnosis and self-treatment.
  • No self-prescription.
  • Maintain accurate, up-to-date and legible records that report relevant details of clinical history, clinical investigations, diagnoses, patient information, medications, referrals and other supported in a form understandable by other health care practitioners.
  • If possible, avoid providing medical care to anyone with whom you have a close personal relationship.

If you treat or treat your loved ones puts you on the wrong side of the Code of conduct, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach.

Dr Nerissa Ferrie is a forensic advisor with MDA National.

This article is provided by MDA National. The information and related resources provided in this article contain only generic information and do not take into account the needs of a particular person. They also do not reflect specific facts relating to a legal, financial, medico-legal or professional problem. We recommend that you contact your claimant if you need specific advice relating to your insurance or forensic policy Questions. Members can contact MDA National for specific advice on the toll free number 1 800 011 255 or use the “contact us” form at We can also refer you to other professional services.

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