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1. Who is the Director of Proceedings?

The Director of Proceedings is a lawyer appointed under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act.

In certain circumstances where the Commissioner has found a breach of a consumer's rights, he may refer the provider to the Director of Proceedings.

The Director of Proceedings reviews the Commissioner's file and makes an independent decision whether or not to take any further action.

The Director of Proceedings can lay a disciplinary charge before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, issue proceedings before the Human Rights Review Tribunal, or both.

A team of lawyers and assistants works with the Director of Proceedings, reviewing files and prosecuting cases.


2. How will I know if my case has been referred?

The Commissioner's staff will discuss the proposed referral with the consumer or person who made the complaint. When the Commissioner issues his final report, he will advise whether the matter has been referred.

Once the Director has received the file, you will be sent a letter letting you know that she has the file and providing a time estimate within which she will assess the file and make a decision.


3. What happens once it is referred?

Because the Director of Proceedings and team have had no involvement in the investigation, the file is now reviewed.

The Director considers all the information contained on the file, as well as all relevant law, and then decides whether or not to issue proceedings. In some circumstances you may be contacted for further information, or confirmation of some matters.

Once a decision has been made whether or not to issue proceedings, you will be advised and, if further action is to be taken, you will be given more information about what will happen next.

You are welcome to contact the Director's staff at any time if you have any questions.


4. What if I am not happy with the decision?

Once the Director of Proceedings has made a decision whether or not to issue proceedings, this cannot be appealed. 

If you are not happy with the decision, you may seek legal advice to discuss what options you may have.


5. What is the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal?

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT) is a body set up to hear disciplinary charges laid against registered health professionals. Some providers of health services (eg, doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, physiotherapists, and so on) are required by law to be registered with a professional body.

When the HPDT sits to hear a charge brought against a provider, there are five members.  All members of the Tribunal are from a panel of approved members.

The Chairperson of the HPDT is a lawyer; there is a "layperson" to represent the public interest and community expectations;  and the HPDT will always comprise three members of the same profession as the provider who is being prosecuted.

For example, if the HPDT is hearing a charge against a chiropractor, there will be three chiropractors on the Tribunal as well as the Chair and the layperson.

The charges are not criminal charges. They are disciplinary charges alleging "professional misconduct", ie, that the provider's care fell below accepted standards and is serious enough to warrant the formal disapproval of his or her peers.

If a charge is upheld against a registered health practitioner, the HPDT may:

  • cancel the practitioner's registration
  • suspend the practitioner's registration
  • order that the practitioner practise under certain conditions
  • censure the practitioner
  • fine the practitioner
  • order that the practitioner pay some or all of the costs of the investigation and hearing.

6. What is the Human Rights Review Tribunal?

This Tribunal (HRRT) is set up under the Human Rights Act and hears cases involving issues of Privacy Law and Human Rights, and breaches of the HDC Code of Consumers' Rights. It can hear cases involving both registered and non-registered health providers.

Proceedings may also be issued against organisations such as District Health Boards and rest homes.

When the HRRT hears a claim, there are three members from an appointed panel.  The Chair of the HRRT is a lawyer and he sits with two other members.

The HRRT may:

  • issue a Declaration that the Code has been breached
  • order that the provider cease engaging in the conduct that has been found to be a breach of the Code
  • order compensatory damages be paid to the aggrieved person (only where no ACC cover exists)
  • order exemplary damages be paid to the aggrieved person
  • order that any loss or damage is redressed
  • order such other relief as the Tribunal thinks fit.

7. Will the case end up in the media?

Most cases are heard in public, and the media is entitled to attend. Public and media attendance at hearings is not usually high. Certain cases attract more attention than others.

In many cases the Tribunal will order final name suppression for the complainant. It often makes an interim name suppression order for the health provider, and sometimes final name suppression. 

Each case is considered separately, taking into account all matters relevant in that particular circumstance.


8. Will I have to give evidence? (Complainants)

If the Director decides to take further action, it is likely that you will be required to give evidence.

The Director or one of her staff will be your contact person and will prepare your evidence and meet with you to prepare you for the hearing. Your evidence will be a written brief that you read out at the hearing.

The hearings are not as formal as a court hearing.


9. Will I get compensation if my complaint is referred? (Complainants)

The HPDT has no power to order the payment of any fine, costs or compensation to the consumer.

In certain circumstances the HRRT may award compensation. These cases are rare because many of the matters referred to the Director of Proceedings are covered by the Treatment Injury provisions of the ACC legislation, which prohibits suing for damages for personal injury by accident.

The Director will discuss the circumstances of your case with you.


10. Can I bring my own proceedings before the Tribunal? (Complainant)

You are not able to lay a disciplinary charge before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, but where the Commissioner has found a breach under the Code of Consumers' Rights, you are able to bring your own proceedings before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. 

If the Director of Proceedings decides not to take your case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, she will remind you of your right to make a claim yourself.


11. Do I need a lawyer? (Providers)

You are not obliged to engage a lawyer, but it is recommended that you do so.

The lawyer will be able to give you full legal advice including information on the process and likely outcomes, and may represent you at the hearing.

If you choose not to engage a lawyer, the Director or staff are able to inform you of the process and answer questions of a general nature, but cannot provide any legal advice.


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