Updated Council guidance takes patient-centred approach to ending doctor-patient relationships

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A stronger focus on the wellbeing and future care of patients sits at the centre of Council’s amended guidance for doctors on ending professional relationships with their patients.

“Doctor-patient relationships may end for a variety of reasons, and these changes are about making sure the relationship is ended carefully, respectfully and with the best interests of the patient in mind,” says Dr Curtis Walker, Chair of Te Kaunihera Rata o Aotearoa Medical Council of New Zealand.

“Our updated guidance requires doctors to put the patient first and to carefully consider the impact that ending the relationship may have on the patient’s future care, their wellbeing and their whānau.”

Before ending a professional relationship with a patient, doctors are expected to:

  • consider the impact that ending the relationship could have on the patient’s present and future care needs, and their whānau;
  • think about the most respectful and culturally safe way of ending the relationship;
  • discuss their decision to end the relationship with a peer, colleague, practice manager or indemnity insurer before proceeding;
  • communicate clearly and sensitively with the patient as to why they’ve chosen to end the relationship.

“We’re also strongly encouraging practitioners to be supportive of their patients if they wish to change doctors, and be open to discussing any concerns or issues they wish to raise,” says Dr Walker

35 submissions were received from doctors, medical centres, medical colleges and others when Council consulted on its proposed changes between August and September 2020.

“I’d like to thank the profession for their insights, helping us to develop stronger, more patient-centred, guidance on ending doctor-patient relationships.”

Read Council’s statement on Ending a doctor-patient relationship.

  • Ending a doctor patient relationship

    Doctor-patient relationships can come to an end for a variety of reasons, commonly when the patient moves to another area or chooses to see another doctor, but also when the relationship breaks down and either the doctor or patient decides to discontinue the professional relationship. We outline in this statement the process for discontinuing patient care, and the need to do so in a fair and professional manner.