Publication orders (Naming Policy)

A recent change to the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 sets a new requirement on all health profession regulators, including the Medical Council.  We are now required to publish a policy setting out on when we might make public in some way, information about an order or direction made by us about a doctor.

Following consultation in 2019, with a wide range of stakeholders, including all registered doctors, we finalised the policy late last year and it is published on our website. It will come into effect on 1 April 2020.

Our naming policy

You can download our policy at the link below. This policy comes into effect on 1 April 2020.

We may make an order about a doctor public

The power to publish information about orders made by us is not new.  Since 2003, when the Act was passed, the HPCAA has allowed us to publish a notice setting out:

  • The ‘effect’ of an order we’ve made
  • Any findings or reasons the we had for the order
  • The doctor’s name.

What has changed?

What has changed, is that we must now have a published policy about why, when and how, we will publish information about an order or direction made by us about a doctor.

What’s the purpose of the policy?

The three key reasons for the policy, set out in the HPCAA, are to:

  • improve public confidence in doctors and in our disciplinary process by showing how we are using the process
  • make sure that doctors whose conduct has not met expected standards may be named where it is in the public interest to do so, and
  • improve the safety and quality of health care.

It’s important to balance interests

We are aware of the need to balance interests; the doctor’s privacy and the public interest. We know it’s important to be clear how we find that balance.  It’s also important, if we do decide to publish an order, that we do so in the most appropriate way.  This could include, for example, telling just one or a few people; or making a more formal statement on our website.

Because of that, we have set out in the policy the key things we must take into account when considering whether to publish a notice about an order. These include the:

  • situations or circumstances in which a doctor may be ‘named’
  • guiding principles that to help us when deciding to publish a notice about an order
  • processes we must follow when wanting to publish a notice
  • the ways in which a doctor might be named.

When will a notice about an order be published?

Some of the factors we will consider when deciding whether to publish below apply and when we:

  • may be required to protect public health and safety
  • become aware, through our monitoring or from a notification, that a Council order is not being complied with and we believe publishing a notice will lead to future compliance
  • have information to suggest that there is new or continuing risk to public health and safety and that publication of a notice is likely to prevent or reduce that risk
  • consider that a notice we have previously published is no longer needed or appropriate (whether or not the order or direction has been revoked). Another notice may be needed to address any potentially adverse consequence of a previous publication of the order or direction.

We will allow the doctor to give us their comments before we decide to publish

Where we do propose to publish a notice, we will consult with the doctor on the proposed notice and the terms of publication. We will consider the doctor’s submissions on the proposed notice and the terms of publication before making a final decision.

How will we publish the notice?

There is no set form of publication.  It could range from a letter to an organisation or individuals, through to publication on our website.  We will use whichever method seems best to inform those we feel should be told.