Fake Nurses and Social Media “Doctors”: How to Protect Yourself From Unregistered Health Practitioners

Since June 2023, the courts have convicted 5 persons and fined another 2 persons for falsely claiming to be a registered health practitioner in Australia.

The most recent convictions in Queensland concern a woman who falsely claimed to be a registered nurse; another woman who claimed to be an occupational therapist; and a man who claimed to be a physiotherapist. Convictions in other jurisdictions include a woman who falsely claimed to be a pharmacist; another who claimed to be a registered psychologist; and another who falsely claimed to be a doctor on social media.

The fake social media doctor posted videos of herself providing medical advice dressed as a doctor on Tiktok and Instagram to over 240,000 followers. She pleaded guilty to the charges, and the court imposed a two-year community corrections order as well as ordering her to pay the
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)’s legal costs of the prosecution in the sum of $13,300.

In September 2023 the first jail sentence was imposed under the National Law on a South Australian woman for pretending to be a registered nurse. This was the second time the fake registered nurse had faced charges laid by AHPRA. For her first offence in 2017 she received a fine of $10,500. The court determined that further deterrence was required considering her reoffending and imposed a jail sentence of 4 months and 28 days, with her being released after serving one month in jail.

Section 116 of the National Law makes it an indictable offence for a person to knowingly or recklessly:

  • take or use the title of “registered health practitioner”; or
  •  claim to be registered under the National Law; or
  •  claim to be qualified to practise as a health practitioner,
    when they are not.

A breach of section 116 by an individual has the maximum penalty of $60,000 or 3 months imprisonment or both.

These recent convictions and fines are a timely reminder about the importance of checking your health practitioner’s registration status. A simple free online search via AHPRA’s register can provide you with the answer. Not only can the register tell you if the healthcare provider is registered in Australia, but also if they are subject to any undertakings, restrictions or suspensions.

For more information on AHPRAs register, please click here.

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