Our main purpose is to promote and protect public health and safety in
New Zealand. We are governed by a Council and our funding comes from the registration and practising fees paid by all practising doctors in New Zealand.
- Protecting the public
- Independence and accountability
- Common misunderstandings about our role
- Our governance
- Our history
The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 defines our role and purpose.
We are responsible for:
- registering doctors
- setting standards and guidelines
- recertifying and promoting lifelong learning for doctors
- reviewing practising doctors where there are concerns about their performance, professional conduct or health.
- maintain a medical register of all registered doctors (practising and non-practising)
- issue practising certificates to doctors who have maintained their competence to continue practising medicine
- monitor the training of medical students and new doctors to ensure their medical education is appropriate
- require doctors to continue their medical education once they start working
- require doctors to receive treatment if they are suffering from an illness that is affecting their practice
- suspend a doctor’s practice if appropriate
- assess a doctor’s performance in response to concerns expressed by a patient or colleagues.
We have strong and effective legal powers that allow us to maintain the standards the public have a right to expect of doctors.
We are not here to protect doctors – their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the health and safety of patients.
Where any doctor fails to meet our standards, we act to protect patients from harm - if necessary, by removing the doctor from the medical register and removing their right to practise medicine.
We believe patients' interests are best served by independent, accountable regulation.
The Medical Council must be independent of government as the dominant provider of healthcare in New Zealand; independent of domination by any single group; and be publicly accountable for the discharge of its functions.
Independent, accountable regulation must:
- Put patient health and safety first
- Support good medical practice
- Promote fairness, equality and value diversity.
- Respect the principles of good regulation: proportionality, accountability, consistency, transparency and targeting.
Sometimes members of the public look to us to investigate a complaint about a doctor or to take disciplinary action against a doctor. We are required to refer complaints from health consumers to the Health and Disability Commissioner.
If the complaint relates to the conduct of a doctor, we cannot investigate the complaint while the Health and Disability Commissioner is investigating it.
If the complaint relates to a doctor's competence, we do not investigate the actual complaint but we are able to take action to manage that doctor's competence in order to protect the health and safety of the public at the same time the Health and Disability Commissioner is investigating.
The Health and Disability Commissioner deals with complaints about a doctor from: patients, their families and other support people, and from third parties such as concerned staff members in a health or disability service.
The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal determines any disciplinary action to be brought against doctors and other health practitioners.
We are governed by a 12-member council appointed by the Minister of Health.
The Council comprises:
- four doctors elected by the profession
- four doctors appointed by the Minister of Health
- four laypersons. Note: a layperson is someone who is not registered (or qualified to be registered), as a health practitioner.
By law, the majority of Council members must be doctors. The membership must include three laypersons when the Council has nine or more members. Council members are appointed for a 3-year term and can be reappointed for additional terms.
The full Council meets eight times a year however Council committees (Audit, Education and Health committees), may meet more (or less) frequently.
Georgina (Georgie) Jones was our Secretary/Registrar from 1987 to 2000. She has written a personal, informal account of her experiences working for the Medical Council through a time of significant change in New Zealand's health system. Copies of A History of the Medical Council are available on request.