Chair's foreword

Tēnā koutou e ngā rata, e ngā iwi o te motu,

Welcome to the final Medical Council News for 2019. I’m sure many of you are looking forward to some well-deserved rest after another year filled with the day to day challenges of practising medicine alongside all the many other priorities in life.

It has been a big year for the Council, including moving into a new office (after the Kaikōura earthquake damaged our former premises) and saying farewells to a number of long serving Councillors, including Chair, Andrew Connolly. I have had the great privilege of following on from Andrew since February, and over the year have enjoyed engaging with many of you in your roles with Colleges, District Health Boards, Professional Associations and public bodies.

I am inspired by the amazing energy and diversity of the medical profession in service of the public. New Zealanders can rightly have confidence in the capability, compassion and dedication of doctors in Aotearoa / New Zealand. This was no more in evidence than during the national tragedies of the Christchurch Mosque shootings in March and the Whakaari / White Island eruption. The work of first responders and health professionals saved lives, and the work and healing is ongoing.

A year of legislative change

This year saw amendments to the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act (HPCAA), which governs our Council and the other regulated health professions. Naming policies, performance reviews, requirements for data collection, and a new power to immediately suspend practitioners were some of the key changes.

As 2019 draws to a close, there are a number of significant legislative changes of public and professional interest on the horizon in 2020. Abortion reform, cannabis reform and the referendum on the End of Life Choice legislation are all matters Council is following closely. Without prejudging the outcome of the parliamentary and public processes, Council is very aware that professional guidance and standards may need to be developed and updated in response to any changes in legislation.

There are also the ever present challenges for healthcare in the form of health (in)equity, changing models of care, emerging technologies (such as artificial intelligence), workforce and funding pressures, and the increasing age and medical complexity of New Zealanders’ medical needs.

Cultural safety and health equity

Council has updated a number of statements through the year including informed consent, professionalism and competence, and – of particular importance – cultural safety and improving health equity.  Health equity and the improvement of health outcomes for Māori is at the forefront of our work. Our view is that improving the cultural safety of medical practice will contribute to health equity and improve health outcomes for all cultural groups, with a focus on Māori as tāngata whenua.

Council will continue to advocate strongly for doctors to experience community based care in their intern years as a key initiative to support primary and community healthcare. In 2019, revisions to the prevocational educational programme for interns and strengthened recertification for vocationally registered doctors give the public assurance that doctors are maintaining lifelong learning, assessing real-world outcomes, and focusing on quality assurance and improvement.

Council’s overarching goal is to assure public safety through competent medical practice. I am confident in the medical profession’s ability to respond to the many challenges we face through innovation, leadership and dedication. We have another full work programme ahead in 2020, which I look forward to sharing with you next year.

On behalf of my fellow Council members and Council staff, I wish you all a safe and restorative holiday season.

Ngā mihi o te tau hou,

Curtis Walker
Medical Council of New Zealand


Also in this edition of Medical Council News