NZSTA Ethics Complaints

What you need to know

“Every consumer has the right to complain about a provider in any form appropriate to the consumer”.
Right 10 in the Code of Rights (Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994)

The New Zealand Speech-language Therapists’ Association is the self-regulating body for the speech-language therapists in New Zealand. The NZSTA is responsible for handling complaints and concerns regarding speech-language therapists.

The NZSTA Ethics Complaints Process includes:

  • electronic lodging of a complaint on our website for people to lodge a complaint: Register a Complaint or Concern Form
  • a phone call from the Secretariat to the complainant and to the complainee regarding the complaint to explain the process and provide a point of contact
  • use of electronic means of communication where appropriate to speed up the process
  • updates to all parties on progress of the complaint
  • supporting the recruitment of additional competence reviewers and professional conduct committee members based on the complaint made

The NZSTA takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, and uses all mechanisms available to conduct thorough investigations. We encourage anyone with concerns to report to us in confidence.

Being the recipient of a complaint is understandably stressful for a health practitioner, however, the Board has a clearly documented complaints/concerns procedure as set out below which will help members understand the process.

Some of the key things to understand are:

  • The NZSTA is required to inform the Health and Disability Commissioners Office of any complaint they receive affecting a health consumer. The Health and Disability Commissioners Office will complete their own review of the complaint. www.hdc.org.nz/making-a-complaint
  • The NZSTA will ensure the principles of natural justice prevail.
  • The NZSTA consider three types of complaints: professional conduct, competence, fitness to practice.

Professional Conduct: Where professional conduct is the concern, the NZSTA follows the NZSTA Principle and Rules of Ethics which guides standards of behaviour expected of speech-language therapists in New Zealand.

Competence: Where clinical competence is the concern, speech-language therapists will be assessed against the CBOS requirements for entry-level clinical competency and relevant NZSTA policies and procedures. NZSTA members with relevant expertise, including NZSTA Expert Advisers, will be consulted.

Fitness for Practice: Where fitness for practice is the concern, the NZSTA will rely on Employer-based assessments wherever possible. For Private Practitioners working independently, the NZSTA will work with a member to ensure appropriate medical assessments are completed and that the member has the appropriate support processes / supervision processes in place.

If you need to call us for more information or a query – please contact us on Telephone: +64 9 475 0214; Email: admin@speechtherapy.org.nz

Relevant New Zealand legislation

NZSTA Complaints / Concerns Procedure

All complaints must be in writing using the online NZSTA Complaint or Concern Form and clearly state contact details of all signatories*.

All complaints will be received by the Secretariat.

The Secretariat will forward a copy of the complaint to the President and the Professional Standards portfolio holder within five (5) working days.

The President and the Professional Standards portfolio holder will triage the complaint with at least one other relevant members of the Board.

If the complaint is considered valid (related to professional conduct, clinical competence or fitness to practice) and in need of further action, it will be triaged:

  1. Complaint affects a Health Consumer = complaint is directed to the Health and Disability Commissioner as a Health and Disability Complaint
  2. Notification from another Health Practitioner or Agency = complaint is directed to the Board for consideration.
  3. Complaint is regarding a non-NZSTA member = the complaint will be directed to the Health and Disability Commissioner as a Health and Disability Complaint.

The Board must confer within fifteen (15) working days of the complaint being received and decide if further action is required.

The Secretariat will acknowledge receipt of the complaint to the complainant, in writing, within fifteen (15) working days of the complaint being received. Additional information will be requested by phone and email. The information must be received within 15 days or the complaint will be ceased.

The Secretariat will inform the complainee – the member being complained about, within fifteen (15) working days of the complaint being received, that a complaint has been received by the Board.

The Board triages the complaint / concern into:

  1. Professional Conduct
  2. Clinical Competence
  3. Fitness to Practice
  4. Multi-level concerns

 

Professional Conduct

A Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) is developed by the Board. This must include President, Professional Standards and two members with relevant expertise based on the complaint. Case by case relevant non-members may be requested e.g. nurse, teacher.

The letter to the Complainant and the Member will list the members of the PCC, include a copy of the NZSTA Ethics Complaint Procedure and the NZSTA Principles and Rules of Ethics, and indicate that the member being complained about will be contacted directly if further information is required. The member will also be able to state if they have any objections to the composition of the PCC, but must do so within five (5) working days.

A copy of the complaint will be forwarded to each member of the PCC upon formation of the Committee.

The PCC will discuss the content to determine if any further information is required, either from the complainant or from the member being complained about, within fifteen (15) working days of receiving a copy of the complaint.

If further information is required from the member, the Secretariat will send a copy of the complaint to the member complained about. The member will be advised in this correspondence to respond to the Association regarding the complaint within fifteen (15) working days**. If further information is required from the complainants, they will also be advised to provide this information within fifteen (15) working days.

The PCC will investigate the complaint and determine whether or not in its opinion the member has breached the NZSTA Principles and Rules of Ethics or any other relevant patient rights. (NB: The PCC may seek independent legal advice at this stage.)

If there is no breach, the Secretariat will advise, in writing, the complainant and the member complained about.

If the PCC has reason to believe grounds exist entitling the Board to put in place sanctions, it will liaise with the Board regarding the complaint.

The Board will then:

1)  issue a notice to the member complained against setting out the grounds of the breach; and

2)  require the member to answer to the notice by appearing before representation of the Ethics Committee on a date not less than twenty-eight (28) days after the date of service of the notice. The member is entitled to bring a support person to the meeting. At this meeting, the sanctions recommended by the Ethics Committee will be outlined, and, where appropriate, a review date will be set.

The decision of a majority of the members present at any of the stages of this procedure shall be the decision of the Committee.

Proceedings shall not be open to the general public.

Every decision of the Committee(s) shall –

The Secretariat will keep a copy of the complaint, relevant documentation and outcomes on the NZSTA Complaints file. All other copies of the complaint and relevant documentation held by the PCC and Ethics Committee members will be destroyed at the conclusion of the case.

Sanctions may include but are not limited to:

  1. Supervision
  2. Retraining (details based on specific case)
  3. Training
  4. Mediation
  5. Suspension or expulsion from the NZSTA.

All such sanctions will have recommended time frames and be monitored appropriately.

 

Clinical Competence

Where clinical competence is the concern,

  1. the Board will request support from at least two independent NZSTA members with relevant expertise (e.g. NZSTA Expert Advisers)
  2. speech-language therapists will be assessed against the CBOS requirements for entry-level clinical competency and relevant NZSTA policies and procedures
  3. will be consulted.

 

Fitness to Practice

The NZSTA follows the Medical Council of New Zealand’s standards regarding fitness to practice. Where fitness to practice is the concern,

  1. the Board will request evidence from the informer and member of concern
  2. the Board will be non-judgemental and balance supporting the member’s rehabilitation with safety to the public
  3. the NZSTA do not have a Health Team to assess fitness of practice and work alongside a member and their community medical services to ensure both member and public safety is prioritised. This may include a period without clinical contact or increased supervision.

 

Multi-level concerns

All multi-level concerns are managed under the Professional Conduct processes.

 

* If the complainant is unable to put the complaint in writing independently, then an advocate can support the writing of the complaint. 

** If the person being complained about is unable to meet timeframes they must request this in writing and attach proof e.g., medical certificate or travel documents.