Sunday, March 23, 2014

AHPRA ACTION Campaign: enough is enough!

Readers who have been following the health professional news about the new AHPRA Advertising Guidelines are invited to sign this petition, which petitions AHPRA to remove Section 6.2.3 from the Advertising Guidelines.  SIGN HERE

By way of reminder ... from the Advertising Guidelines:
6.2.3 Testimonials
Section 133 of the National Law states:
(1) A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that – 
 (c) Uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business
For more about this part of the Guideline, go to Birth Stories.

It has occurred to me that even Birth Notices that were very popular in the past, when we all read the daily newspaper, could have breached AHPRA's extremely narrow interpretation of 'testimonial'.  [I think social media has replaced the Birth Notices column in the newspaper!]

In discussing Birth Stories within the (relative) sanctuary of a closed facebook group for eligible midwives, one midwife expressed the opinion that " birth stories belong to women, and [I] do not see why midwives feel they have to publish them, and think they could be construed as advertising if published in midwives' own space."

Time will tell!

Yes, birth stories do belong to women - and if you can show me a birth story that focuses on the midwife and appears to have a purpose or intention to promote (/advertise) that midwife's practice, then perhaps it could be called a testimonial.

The guideline says "Testimonials can distort a person’s judgment in his or her choice of health practitioner."

The overarching purpose of regulation of health professionals is the protection of the public. Protection of the public from rogue or negligent or incompetent professionals and the like. Protection of the public from charlatans and snake oil sellers who would deceive and manipulate unsuspecting potential clients.

The scope of the midwife who works in primary maternity care, and the leading theme in birth stories, is natural, unmedicated, unmanaged, (sometimes noisy, sometimes messy, always unpredictable) birth.  Natural childbirth is unique in the spectrum of health care: it requires the woman to do *it* herself! There are no shortcuts, no special breathing techniques, no therapies, no magic words or products to be bought, that make natural childbirth better than it already is.

It seems to me that AHPRA is looking for a broad brush that covers every possibility in regulated health. I don't think AHPRA is necessarily targeting midwives in the 'patient stories' part of the guideline.

In conclusion (for now), I support the AHPRA ACTION campaign, and have signed the petition calling for the removal of Section 6.2.3.

The National Law, which prohibits the use of testimonials in advertising the service or business of a regulated health professional, continues.   The onus in this matter must be for AHPRA to demonstrate that the statement (comment - positive or negative - that identifies a regulated health professional on social media, midwife's website, YouTube video, or newspaper Birth Notice) must be shown to be advertising the practitioner or the service in order for it to be called a testimonial.

An excellent series of blog posts about 'social media' by Geraldton WA GP Dr Edwin Kruys provide more argument and comment, particularly from the medical practitioner's point of view.  You can follow Dr Kruys on Twitter at

Note: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the writer, Joy Johnston.

Your comments are welcome.


Joy Johnston said...

Anyone who is unclear about what a testimonial in advertising is, the recent issue of Aust Midwifery News, p5, advertisement for a breast pump:
"The more comfortable and relaxed I am, the more my milk seems to flow" Monica, mother of newborn Oliver.
That is quite legal, it's not advertising a health professional's practice.
If I used the same (purported) testimonial, and applied it to my midwifery practice, advertising my services either online or on paper, it would be in breach of the legislation, and I could expect a call from AHPRA, and a $5000 fine if I refused to comply.
BUT, if Monica, mother of newborn Oliver, wrote the same words on a social media group, indicating that I her midwife had some part to play in her sense of success (which I hope I do), then according to the new Advertising Guidelines that statement would be a testimonial even though it was unsolicited, and I would be required to take steps to get it taken down. According to the NMBA FAQ, it is clearly outside my control, and is not advertising, so it's not a testimonial.

If you have contact from AHPRA about the new advertising guidelines, I'm sure the Australian College of Midwives and others in the midwifery profession will be interested.

Joy Johnston said...

the latest news from
Doctors win: AHPRA backflips on web reviews

26th Mar 2014
Andrew Bracey

THE Medical Board of Australia has yielded to pressure from doctors over confusing advertising and social media rules, promising to change the wording of guidelines relating to unsolicited online testimonials.

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the board said it had decided to change the advertising guidelines to be clearer about the use of testimonials.

“The board has decided that the guidelines need to change to make it clearer that practitioners are not responsible for removing (or trying to have removed) unsolicited testimonials published on a website or in social media over which they do not have control,” it stated.

The question that comes to mind is, will the AHPRA Advertising Guidelines be changed across the 'boards', or is this just for doctors?

Joy Johnston said...

The AHPRA response to the questions about birth stories is FAQ#11 under advertising at