The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003
The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCAA) was passed on 18 September 2003. The majority of the provisions of the legislation came into operation on 18 September 2004. The HPCAA applies to all health practitioners, not just to midwifery. It established separate Regulatory Authorities to enact the legislation for each group of health practitioners. For midwifery this is the Midwifery Council. Each Regulatory Authority works within the same regulatory framework of the HPCAA. The HPCAA can be viewed at New Zealand Legislation.
The principal purpose of the HPCAA is to protect the health and safety of members of the public by providing mechanisms to ensure that health practitioners are competent and fit to practise in their profession.
The mechanisms to support the purposes are:
- Scopes of practice describe and define the boundaries of each profession.
- Professional competence has to be proven in order to register as a health practitioner.
- Evidence of continuing professional competence is required when a health practitioner applies for an annual practising certificate in order to be able to continue to practise.
- A Regulatory Authority can suspend a practitioner's Annual Practising Certificate, impose conditions on a scope of practice or alter a practitioner's scope of practice.
Click here to see the Midwifery Scope of Practice.
Why was there a need for the HPCA Act?
Before the HPCA Act, each health profession was regulated under a profession-specific law and in general the legislation did not require health practitioners to continue their professional education in new skills and technologies or to demonstrate that they had maintained their competence to practise.
Authorities became aware of a possible competence problem only if a patient laid a complaint against a practitioner. Authorities were then able to commence a formal complaints process. This is a classic example of the "ambulance at the bottom of the cliff" scenario.
Legislation passed by Canadian Provincial Governments and our own successful Medical Practitioners Act 1995 provided the legislative models for the HPCA Act.
The public expects health practitioners to be competent and safe. The HPCA Act is a response to that fair and reasonable expectation.
For questions and answers about the HPCA Act click Ministry of Health HPCA Act link.