Cap On Tax Deductions for Doctors’ Education may Jeopardise Patient Safety

Lowering the cap on tax deductions for work-related continuing education expenses for doctors could compromise patient safety and quality of care aswell as the health of doctors, the Committeeof Presidents of Medical Colleges said today.

Committee President Professor Kate Leslie said there was great concern among the specialist medical colleges that the cap of $2,000 on tax deductions for work-related self-education expenses,planned for introduction by the Australian Government on July 1, 2014 would adversely affect thetraining and continuing professional development of all doctors.

“The annual cost of specialist medical training already exceeds the cap for all trainees and the cost of continuing professional development exceeds the cap for most registered specialists,” Professor Leslie said.

“Increasing this cost … may result in trainees delaying entry to training while they pay off medical school debts and save for training fees.”

She said continuing professional development underpinned safety and high quality patient care and compliance with standards for continuing professional development was mandated by theMedicalBoard of Australia and endorsed by the profession.

But the cap could prove a disincentive to many because achieving the mandated level of continuing professional development inside a $2,000 cap was rarely possible.

“This cap may impair broad engagement of trainees with the profession and with life-long learning,because it may discourage attendance at medical education events during training,” she said.

“Trainees and specialists in rural and remote settings may be particularly disadvantaged because ofarduous and expensive travel requirements and those outside the public hospital system will also suffer as they already have a lack of access to support from the public system.

“This may contribute to professional isolation and reduce the quality of care offered to patients.”

Professor Leslie said the Committee hoped to meet with the federal Health Minister with a view to developing alternative solutions so the entire profession was not compromised due to the “perceived excesses of a few doctors”.

“Australian taxation law contains clear guidelines for the claiming of work-related travel expenses,’ she said.

“Tightening of these rules or increased audit to confirm legitimate deductions is an alternative to capping deductions that does not penalise those doctors who seek to improve patient care throughtraining and continuing professional development.”

CPMC is the peak body representing the specialist medical colleges in Australia. Its mission is “to promote the highest quality of medical care and the best of health for the Australian community bycoordinated and collective advocacy and collaboration”. The 15 member colleges are responsible forthe standards for their respective disciplines and for the training, assessment and continuing professional development of their members.

To speak to Professor Leslie, please contact Ebru Yaman ateyaman@anzca.edu.au or 0408259 269