What we do

We serve Aotearoa New Zealand by protecting public health and safety. We do this by setting and promoting standards for the medical profession.

Protecting the public

The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 sets out our role - here’s a short summary.

We are responsible for:

  • registering New Zealand doctors
  • keeping a register of all doctors
  • setting standards for the way our doctors practise medicine·
  • making sure doctors have the skills to practise within the scope of how they are registered
  • promoting continuous learning for doctors so their skills are kept up to date
  • reviewing doctors when their performance, professional conduct or health is a concern.

We also:

  • issue doctors with practicing certificates provided they maintain their skills at the right level to practise medicine well
  • make sure medical students and new doctors get the right training
  • make sure doctors continue their medical education once they start working
  • manage how doctors practise if they are unwell and might be putting patients’ health at risk
  • suspend a doctor’s practice if necessary.

Our primary purpose is to protect patients and the public

You have a right to expect high standards of care from your doctor and our job is to make sure that is what you receive. Our role is to protect the health and safety of patients by ensuring doctors are competent and fit to practise.

When a doctor falls short of our standards, we have strong legal powers to protect patients from harm. If necessary, we can stop them practising medicine.

Here’s the Act of Parliament that sets out our responsibilities. Please take a look if you would like to know more.

Right-touch regulation

Whether it’s assessing a doctor’s performance or promoting good medical practice that reflects the expectations of Aotearoa New Zealand communities, all our decisions are based on the principles of right-touch regulation. This is an internationally tried and tested decision-making model for regulators.

How we make our decisions

  • Proportionate
    We will identify risk. Decisions will be proportionate to the risk posed.

  • Consistent
    Our policies, standards and decisions will be based on the principles of fairness and consistency.

  • Targeted
    We will focus on the problem and minimise the side effects.

  • Transparent
    We will be open and transparent and keep our regulations simple and user-friendly.

  • Accountable
    We make sure our decisions and actions are robust and stand up to scrutiny.

  • Agile
    We will be forward thinking and adapt to and anticipate change.

Independent from Government

The best way to protect your rights as a patient is for us to be independent from both doctors and the Government.

Because we are independent and focussed on what's best for the public, you can trust we:

  • put patient health and safety first
  • promote and encourage good medical practice
  • promote fairness and equality, and value diversity
  • do our job fairly and follow principles of consistency transparency and balance fairly;

What happens with notifications

Sometimes members of the public come to us to investigate a notification about a doctor or asking us to take disciplinary action against a doctor. Notifications are usually about the doctor’s behaviour, or their competence - how well they do their job. By law, we must refer these notifications to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

The Health and Disability Commissioner deals with notifications about a doctor from patients, their families, whānau, other support people, or from people such as concerned staff members in a medical practice.

If the notification is about a doctor doing a poor job, we do not investigate the actual notification; the Health and Disability Commissioner does this. If we decide that the notification raises concerns about the doctor's competence, we may decide to review the doctor's practise. One outcome might be that the doctor has to complete what’s called a ‘competence programme’ to show they have the right skills to practice in their chosen area.

If a notification is about doctor’s behaviour, we cannot investigate it further until the Health and Disability Commissioner has finished doing so. However, we can put restrictions on the doctor’s practice while the Health and Disability Commissioner is investigating to protect the health and safety of the public.

How we are run

We are run by a 12-member Council. Our Council is appointed by the Minister of Health.

By law, the majority of the Council must be doctors but there must be layperson council members too. A layperson is someone who is not registered as a health practitioner. The current Council consists of:

  • four doctors chosen by the Minister
  • four doctors elected by other doctors
  • four laypersons chosen by the Minister.

Council members are appointed for a 3-year term, and they can be reappointed for up to 9 years in total.

Our history

The Medical Council has a long history dating back to March 1915 when the Medical Practitioners Act 1914 came into effect.

The publication, A History of the Medical Council of New Zealand, compiled by Professor Richard Sainsbury, details Council's activities since 1915, as well as relaying reflections from former Chairs of Council on the issues Council faced during their respective tenures.