Understanding the legislation
The Midwifery Council’s role is defined in the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCAA) which was passed on 18 September 2003. The Act applies to all health practitioners, not just to midwifery. It established separate Regulatory Authorities to enact the legislation for each group of health practitioners. Just like the Midwifery Council, each Regulatory Authority works within the same legal framework of the HPCAA.
Protecting the health and safety of the public
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.
Some of the ways set up to do this include:
- 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.
Why was there a need 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.
Before the Act, each health profession was regulated under a profession-specific law and the legislation did not always 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 problem only if a patient laid a complaint against a practitioner. Only then could Authorities 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.