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Stronger penalties and jail term for 'fake doctors'

Fake doctor scandals are nothing new.

People who pretend to be medical practitioners will face tougher penalties under new laws which have come into effect.The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) will be able to impose penalties, including a maximum jail term of three years, on those pretending to be a registered practitioner.

More than 50 cases of people pretending to be a health practitioner have been prosecuted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority since 2014. 

Some of these cases have included people pretending to be dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

But from 1 July, AHPRA will be able to impose tougher penalties on those lying about their qualifications, including a maximum jail term of three years. 

Fines have also doubled per offence from $30,000 to $60,000 for an individual and from $60,000 to $120,000 for a corporation.

The Chief executive of AHPRA Martin Fletcher says if anyone is in doubt about a health practitioner, they can easily check to see if they are qualified.

"Sometimes there are people who have never completed a degree in the area which they are claiming to be registered. Sometimes we see practitioners who may have been registered overseas and qualified overseas but never been registered here in Australia. And sometimes we see people who may have been previously registered and may have had their registration cancelled or suspended who continue to practice.  So we see all sorts of motivations and reasons why people do this, but at the end of the day it's a violation of the trust of patients and can cause significant harm to patients as well."

People can check on a medical practitioner by calling AHPRA on 1300 419 495 or searching online at  ahpra.gov.au.

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