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Conduct concerns

In keeping with our primary objective of protecting public health and safety, we set standards that we expect of all doctors. Should a doctor not meet our standards, we may require them to take part in our complaints and disciplinary process.

One of the principal purposes of the complaints and disciplinary process is public protection; to protect the public and the profession from doctors who are unfit to practise. Another purpose is to enable the profession to ensure the conduct of doctors conforms to the standards generally expected of them.

What happens when a complaint is referred to a PCC?

Our complaints and disciplinary process is undertaken by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC).  PCC deals with such complaints referred from the HDC and with referrals after convictions in a court of law. If the Council considers information raises questions about the conduct or the safety of a doctor's practice, it may also refer these to a PCC.

The PCC's role is to determine whether the issue is related to competence or discipline and then to recommend and/or determine an appropriate course of action.  The PCC may investigate the matter however it sees fit, using fair, communicative and natural justice principles.

The PCC may recommend the Council should:

  • review the doctor's competence
  • review the doctor's fitness to practise medicine
  • review the doctor's scope of practice
  • refer the subject matter of the investigation to the Police
  • counsel the doctor

The PCC may also make one of the following 'determinations' or decisions:

  • no further steps be taken in relation to the complaint or conviction or
  • a charge should be brought against the doctor before the Tribunal or
  • in the case of a complaint, the complaint should be submitted to conciliation.

If the PCC decides the complaint or conviction should be considered by the Health and Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT) it must frame an appropriate charge and lay it before the HPDT in writing. The HPDT should consider the charge as soon as reasonably possible.'

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What to expect if you or a complaint about you is referred to a professional conduct committee

These pamphlets explain the role of a professional conduct committee and what to expect if you or a complaint about you is referred to a professional conduct committee.

What to expect if your complaint is referred to a professional conduct committee

What to expect if you are referred to a professional conduct committee

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Health Practitioners DisciplinaryTribunal

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against doctors (or other registered health practitioners) by the Director of Proceedings or a PCC.

The Tribunal may find that the doctor has:

  • been guilty of professional misconduct because of an act or omission that amounted to malpractice or negligence in relation to the doctor’s registered scope of practice when the conduct occurred
  • been guilty of professional misconduct because of an act or omission that has brought or was likely to bring discredit to the medical profession
  • been convicted of an offence that reflects adversely on his or her fitness to practise (convictions for offences against relevant health acts including contraception, sterilisation and abortion, coroners, medicines, the injury prevention, rehabilitation and compensation, and misuse of drugs, or for an offence punishable by a term of three months imprisonment or longer)
  • practised his or her profession while not holding a current practising certificate
  • performed a health service without being permitted to perform that service by his or her scope of practice
  • failed to observe any conditions included in his or her scope of practice
  • breached a penalty order of the Tribunal.

A Tribunal can impose a range of penalties including:

  • cancellation of the doctor’s registration
  • suspension of the doctor for up to three years
  • the imposition of conditions on practice for up to three years;
  • censure
  • a fine of up to $30,000; and the payment of costs and expenses incurred by other parties

Read more from the Tribunal's website

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Malpractice and Negligence

"Malpractice" and "negligence" are common terms used by members of the public to describe a doctors conduct and performance. We describe them as follows:

  • malpractice involves immoral, illegal or unethical conduct or neglect of professional duty (improper professional conduct).
  • negligence generally involves breach of a doctor’s duty in their professional setting.

Both bring harm to the reputation of the medical profession. We apply an objective assessment of whether reasonable members of the public, informed and with knowledge of all the factual circumstances, could reasonably conclude that the reputation and good standing of the profession was lowered by the behaviour of the doctor concerned.

More information can be read in Cole's Medical Practice in New Zealand.


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