Conduct issues generally relate to behavioural acts or omissions and often go to the question of character. The conduct pathway allows councils to manage complaints that may constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) and us consult on the management of all complaints. Where it is agreed there are grounds for a complaint of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct, the matter is referred to the HCCC for investigation.
As part of the investigation, the HCCC may obtain statements from the practitioner, the complainant and other relevant parties. The HCCC also has the power to require any information, including by executing a search warrant or seizing medical records.
At the end of an investigation, the HCCC will give the practitioner an opportunity to respond to its findings.
What happens when we receive a complaint about conduct
Councils may manage less serious conduct complaints by directing a practitioner to attend a counselling meeting about their conduct.
Counselling is intended to:
- inform and remind practitioners about their professional responsibilities,
- assist practitioners in finding ways to enhance and improve their practice and
- provide insight into the ethical standards underpinning professional practice.
Counselling is not designed as a disciplinary measure, but rather as an educative process. The counselling interview is confidential, informal and largely advisory in nature.
If a council is satisfied with the outcome of the counselling interview, that will be the end of the matter. However, if during the course of the interview, further issues come to light that give rise to concern, or if a council are not satisfied with the outcome of the discussion, a council may raise a new complaint that will be handled through an alternative pathway.
Professional Standards Committee
After the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) has completed an investigation of a matter. the HCCC’s Director of Proceedings may decide to make a complaint of unsatisfactory professional conduct be made about a practitioner.
Professional Standards Committees consider complaints of unsatisfactory professional conduct. The committee can consider a matter even if the practitioner is no longer registered.
The committee may consider matters where suspension or cancellation of a practitioner's registration is necessary. The committee may also issue cautions or reprimands. These powers are in addition to the powers of other panels which can impose conditions and orders on a nurse or midwife's registration. Where a complaint of professional misconduct is considered, the matter is referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal instead.