New measures being introduced to help minimise patient harm

News article

23 April 2019

Amendments to The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, aimed at enhancing an already sound framework, have recently been passed by Parliament. These will give New Zealanders further assurance about safety and that the regulatory framework for health professionals is operating as it should be. The Act applies to regulated health practitioners, including doctors and nurses. 

“Many complaints to the Health and Disability Commissioner are about a lack of team work and communication among professions,” says Dr Martin Chadwick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer at the Ministry of Health. “Better team work among health practitioners is important for the delivery of safe health care. Regulators, which include Medical, Nursing and Dental councils, will now be required to promote and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation in the delivery of health services. There will also be more information publicly available on how they respond to complaints.”

Specifically the Act now ensures regulators:

  • are able to receive and act on information from members of the public about the practice of health practitioners
  • must develop policies setting out how they make decisions for naming health practitioners whose competence, fitness to practise or conduct has been reviewed or investigated
  • can act immediately to suspend a practitioner’s practising certificate where there is a risk of serious harm to patients.

Regulators will be reviewed every five years to make sure they are carrying out their functions effectively and efficiently and will publish the review results on their websites. Having this information more widely available will enable continuous improvement within the regulatory system to make it easier to promote good practice and increase consistency across policies and processes.

“The Act will also improve the information available to support patient-focused workforce planning and forecasting. This will help ensure there are sufficient health professionals with the right skills in the areas where they are needed,” Dr Chadwick says.

When the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act was passed in 2003 it was hailed as ground-breaking legislation which received international acknowledgement. Read more about the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act on the Legislation website.

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