Closing a practice due to professional misconduct
An array of outcomes exist for medical practitioners when a formal complaint of misconduct is made about a medical practitioner them to their respective regulatory body. The type and severity of a complaint will determine the potential outcomes, which can include suspension or cancellation of registration. These outcomes will have broader impacts upon the practice of medical practitioners in private practice.
In Australia, issues relating to misconduct are outlined by the Medical Board of Australia.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, issues relating to professional misconduct are set out in the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.
In accordance with the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, the Medical Council of NZ may recommend the suspension of a doctor’s practising certificate if the doctor poses a risk to the public (S79). They may lay charges before The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, an independent organisation, that hears and determines charges regarding doctors’ misconduct (S 80 (3) b) The Tribunal may determine that a doctors’ registration is cancelled or suspended or to place conditions on their practice. (S101).
Please refer to the Medical Council of New Zealand’s Good Medical Practice for further information.
Closing a practice at short notice
A consequence of suspension or cancellation of medical registration for a private practice psychiatrist will be the need for them to close their practice at short notice. Psychiatrists may wish to consider contacting willing colleagues and/or the RANZCP to request support and assistance for this process.
Another potential consequence of a misconduct complaint is that the issue may become public knowledge. When this occurs and the complaint is serious, there is a high probability that the medical practitioner’s practice will receive enquiries from journalists, either by telephone, email or in person. A psychiatrist may wish to seek advice from their lawyer and/or Medical Defence Organisation (MDO) on how to manage such enquiries.
People and organisations to notify
When a private practice psychiatrist must close their practice owing to conditions being imposed upon their registration, either on a temporary or permanent basis, they should immediately:
- Notify their MDO about the conditions imposed on their registration.
- Notify the RANZCP.
- Inform the chair of their peer review group.
- Advise their practice staff of developments and on how to respond to patient and media enquiries.
- Seek legal advice to guide the closure of the practice.
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This information is intended to provide general guide to practitioners, and should not be relied on as a substitute for proper assessment with respect to the merits of each case and the needs of the patient. The RANZCP endeavours to ensure that information is accurate and current at the time of preparation, but takes no responsibility for matters arising from changed circumstances or information or material that may have become subsequently available.