A top neurosurgeon has added his name to Senator Nick Xenophon's call for a Senate inquiry into the medical complaints process.

Senator Xenophon says the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) complaints process is “all about protecting a closed shop rather than the best standards of patient care”.

He made the comments after an ABC report revealed a French spinal surgeon in the Queensland city of Townsville was practically run out of town by a sustained series of complaints and audits prompted by other doctors. 

Now, leading Sydney neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo says he agrees that it is time the system is reviewed.

“I can tell you stories where it has gone that one step further than [Townsville surgeon] Richard Emery,” he said.

“Stories where good neurosurgeons ... good people doing exceptional things, pushing the envelope and making the established neurosurgeons look bad.

“The established neurosurgeons have then bullied this particular person, I'm talking about for more than seven years, resulting in his death by suicide eventually.

“There are unfortunately people that I know who are very guilty of bullying and discrimination, holding positions of authority in those bodies like the College of Surgeons and Hospital Medical advisory boards and expert advisory boards and associations.”

Dr Mukesh Haikerwal - a former president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and now chair of Beyond Blue's Doctors' Mental Health Program – says the AHPRA complaints process is a risk to the mental health of doctors.

“It's part of the problem because of the way it just jumps on people's potentially vexatious claims and takes them all seriously without first investigating them and that's really got to be moderated and changed to give more confidence in the system,” he said.

“If the [AHPRA] board has evidence that a registered health practitioner has made a notification not in good faith, it will investigate and take appropriate action.”