Te tuku amuamu

Making a complaint

If you have a concern about a psychotherapist, this should be provided in writing and be sufficiently detailed: anonymous complaints cannot usually be acted upon.  The Board will acknowledge receipt of a complaint within 5 working days. 

Some organisations such as District Health Boards (DHBs) or Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) have a dedicated complaints process. 

Health and Disability Advocacy Service

As a reminder often complaints can be resolved by talking with the psychotherapist concerned.   You may prefer to use the Health and Disability Advocacy service.  This is a free, independent service that can help you with communicating your concern or complaint to your psychotherapist. Advocates are available all over the country and will work with you to address your concerns.

Health and Disability Commissioner

The role of the HDC is to promote respect for and observance of the rights of health consumers and disability services consumers and to investigate any action that appears to be in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights. 

You can view the Code and information on the Commissioner’s complaint processes by visiting the HDC website.

Complaints where the conduct or competence of a health practitioner has affected a health consumer (patient) are considered by the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) in the first instance. 

It is recommended in the first instance all consumer concerns are sent to the HDC making a complaint. 

Any complaint initially received by the Board that alleges that the practice or conduct of a psychotherapist has affected a health consumer must be forwarded to the HDC.  

After considering a complaint, the HDC may decide to refer the matter to the Board for consideration. If this happens, the Board will promptly notify the complainant and psychotherapist involved, assess the complaint and decide on a course of action to be taken.

A flowchart of the HDC complaint process. 

The Board  cannot take any action while the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) is investigating your complaint.

Notification and Complaints Committee

Complaints received by the Board are considered by the Notification and Complaints Committee (NCC). The NCC is a committee of the Board that receives and considers concerns raised about a psychotherapist’s competence or behaviour on behalf of the Board. The NCC is made up of three members including a layperson. 

The NCC will complete an initial review and may:

  • seek further information to help members make an informed decision
  • refer the matter to the Fitness to Practise Operational Committee if it is a health issue
  • refer the matter to another agency (if more appropriately dealt with by them)
  • refer the matter to the full Board for consideration
  • recommend to the Board that a notice be issued under section 35 of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003
  • recommend that the Board refer the matter to a Professional Conduct Committee for investigation
  • recommend that the Board refer the matter to a Competence Review Committee
  • send the practitioner an educational letter
  • take no further action on the matter.

In the interests of natural justice, the psychotherapist will be informed about any complaint made against them and given a copy of the complaint.  

A flowchart of the PCC process. 

Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal

The HPCA Act has established a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (Tribunal) to hear and determine charges brought before it for any health practitioner covered by the HPCA Act. The Tribunal is a separate body from the Board. It is likely that the Tribunal will consider only the most serious of complaints.

The Tribunal membership is composed of the chair (a barrister or solicitor of the High Court) or a deputy chair and four others, of whom must be one layperson and three psychotherapists.

The source of charges before the Tribunal is either the Director of Proceedings (Health and Disability Commissioner’s Office) or a Professional Conduct Committee.

Court convictions

Court registrars are required to send a notice of conviction to the Board when a psychotherapist has been convicted of an offence that is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 3 months or longer or for other offences listed in the HPCA Act. These convictions must be referred to a PCC.