Conduct and competence concerns

If you work in the medical sector and have concerns about a registered doctor, you can refer the matter to the Council.

Things to consider before referring a doctor to Council

As an employer, colleague or health practitioner, you may become concerned about a doctor’s competence or conduct. Before referring the matter to the Council, it is worth considering the following:

  1. Have you discussed your concerns with the doctor?
  2. Was it a one-off incident, or is a pattern emerging? For example, has the doctor failed to prescribe properly on multiple separate occasions over the last 3 months?
  3. Was it a minor incident or a serious departure from accepted medical practise? If it was a departure, did the doctor have an acceptable explanation?
  4. Has there been a recent change in the doctor’s behaviour or ability? If so, a health issue could be affecting their performance. Information on having concerns about a practitioner’s health is available at the page below.

Referring concerns to Council

Before making a written referral, you are welcome to discuss your concerns with our Professional Standards Team. They will explain how the process works, what information is needed and what support is available to you.

It is important to know that information provided in your written referral, including your name, will be given to the doctor so they can respond. This ensures the Council is acting in accordance to the principles of natural justice and fulfilling our obligations under the Privacy Act 1993.

Providing a detailed referral, including examples of incidents, makes it easier for the doctor to reply. It also means we are better informed and able to take action if required.

If you are the employer of a doctor who has resigned or been dismissed due to competence issues, the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 states that you must inform Council.

What happens when we receive a referral?

You'll find detailed information on how we handle complaints in Principles for the Assessment and Management of complaints and notifications. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. We receive a referral

    The Council can receive referrals and complaints from various sources:

    - Colleagues (including doctors and all other health practitioners)
    - Employers
    - The Ministry of Health
    - The Accident and Compensation Corporation
    - Patients by way of the Health and Disability Commissioner

  2. We request a response from the doctor

    The information provided in your written referral, including your name, will be given to the doctor so they can respond. This ensures the Council is acting in accordance to the principles of natural justice and fulfilling our obligations under the Privacy Act 1993.


  3. The referral is handled by the Complaints Triage Team (CTT).

    Once the doctor's response is received, all the information is considered at the next CTT meeting. The CTT will then decide what should happen. Possible outcomes include that:

    - No further action is required.
    - No further action is required other than providing the doctor with further education on a specific issue.
    - The matter should be referred to a full Council meeting.
    - There are concerns that the doctor’s continued practise may pose an immediate risk to public health and safety. In this case, an agreement may be entered into with the doctor that sets temporary limitations on their practice.

  4. If referred to Council, the doctor is given a futher opportunity to respond.

  5. The matter is referred to Council at the next available meeting

    The Council will then make a decision on what should happen. Possible outcomes include that:

    - No further action is required
    - No further action is required other than providing the doctor with further education on a specific issue.
    - The doctor is required to undergo a tailored recertification programme.
    - There are concerns about the doctor’s competence to practise, so they are referred to a Performance Assessment Committee (PAC).
    - There are concerns about the doctor’s professional conduct, so they are referred to a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC).
    - There are concerns that the doctor’s continued practice may pose an immediate risk to public health and safety. In this case, the doctor may be suspended or conditions placed on their practice. This is usually ordered with a referral to a PAC or PCC.

For more information please refer to the following links.