Making a complaint about a practitioner

Complaints are raised through the Board's Registrar who in the first instance must determine if the complaint relates to a specific health consumer or is based more generally on issues of competence, fitness to practice or conduct.

The Board cannot act on anonymous complaints, so a complainant must provide a name and contact details.

Should you have concerns about the competence or fitness of a dietitian to practice but there is no identifiable health consumer who is the subject of the complaint, then you should contact the Board for guidance.

Please refer to Guidelines for Competency Referrals written by the Health Regulatory Authorities NZ (HRANZ) and the District Health Boards NZ (DHBNZ).

Other useful resources are:

Practitioners: what happens if a Complaint or Notification Of Competence is made about me?

If the Dietitians Board receives a complaint about a registered dietitian, the Board considers whether:

1. The complaint concerns a particular patient, that is, it alleges that the practice or conduct of a dietitian has detrimentally affected a particular health consumer; or 

2. The complaint is based more generally on issues of competence or fitness of a dietitian to practice and there is no identifiable health consumer in the complaint.

1. The complaint concerns a particular health consumer

If the complaint is of the first kind relating to a particular health consumer, it must by law be referred to the Health and Disability Commissioner. The Board will send such complaints it receives to the Commissioner. The Board recommends therefore that such complaints be sent directly to the Health and Disability Commissioner, PO Box 1791, Auckland, in writing and in sufficient detail. The Commissioner will liaise with the Board as necessary.

If the scope of the complaint is not clear, the Board will refer the complaint to the Commissioner for a preliminary assessment.

The Commissioner has a number of options available for dealing with such complaints. He may decide it is appropriate for the complaint to be dealt with by the Dietitians Board. In such cases the Board will:

• Assess the complaint 

• Consider, in light of the nature and circumstances of the complaint, the action or actions that the Board should take to respond to it 

• Decide whether to refer the complaint to a special Professional Conduct Committee set up by the Board under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. 

A Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) can make various determinations and recommendations, for example that: 

• The Board counsel the practitioner; 

• The Board review the competence of the health practitioner; 

• The Board review the practitioner's scope of practice; 

• A charge be brought against the dietitian in the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal;or 

• No further steps be taken.

 Professional Conduct Committee

The Board may appoint this committee from time to time to investigate the complaint and make recommendations and/or determinations. The committee is composed of 2 dietitians who are registered with the authority; and 1 layperson. Members of the Board may be on the PCC.

Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal

The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 has established a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal to hear and determine charges brought before it for any health practitioner covered by the Act. The Tribunal is a separate body from the Board and other health registration authorities. It is likely that the Tribunal will consider only the most serious of complaints. 

The source of charges brought before the Tribunal is either the Director of Proceedings (Health and Disability Commissioner's Office) or the Board's Professional Conduct Committee. 

2. The complaint is based more generally on issues of competence or fitness of a dietitian to practice and there is no identifiable health consumer in the complaint.

If the Board assesses a risk of serious harm to the public because the dietitian is practising below the required standard of competence, the Board can suspend the dietitian's Annual Practising Certificate or change the dietitian's Scope of Practice.

The Board may undertake a review of a registered dietitian. If the Board has reason to believe that the dietitian fails to meet the standard of competence the Board must make one or more of the orders specified in the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, that:

• The dietitian undertake a competence programme

• One or more conditions be included in the dietitian's Scope of Practice 

• The dietitian sit an examination or undertake an assessment specified in the order 

• The dietitian be counselled or assisted by one or more nominated persons.

 The Dietitians Board may at any time review or assess the competence of a registered dietitian who holds a current practising certificate, whether or not it has received a complaint and whether or not it has other reason to believe that the dietitian's competence may be deficient.

The Board may also inquire into the professional behaviour of dietitians in the workplace if that behaviour has the potential to impact on the delivery of health services or otherwise may be in breach of the Code of Ethics and Conduct for Dietitians.  Adherence to the Code of Ethics and Conduct is a responsibility for every registered dietitian, and the Board does take seriously any allegation that there has been a breach of the Code.