Concerns and complaints
Before you raise a concern or complaint
If you are unhappy with the quality or result of the treatment provided to you, or are dissatisfied with the provider’s service, conduct, the costs of treatment, or you have suffered an injury as a result of the treatment, you should first contact the Chinese medicine practitioner who provided the treatment to try to resolve your dissatisfaction.
It is important that you understand what has happened and what your practitioner may do to assist you. Try to be clear about what remedy you are seeking.
Sometimes these discussions can be difficult so you might consider having a support person or health advocate with you when you discuss the situation. You may prefer to raise the matter with your practitioner by writing a letter or email to them.
Then, if the practitioner is unable or unwilling to solve the matter to your satisfaction, or you have not been able to approach the practitioner directly to discuss your concerns, you can contact us for advice on the avenues of support available to you.
Contact us for advice
We can provide advice on the options available to you for support, complaint investigation and resolution, and financial compensation, including:
- Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service (Free)
- Professional Associations
- Health and Disability Commissioner
- Chinese Medicine Council of New Zealand
- Disputes Tribunal
- Accident Compensation Corporation.
You can find our contact details here.
Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service
The Advocacy Service is a free and independent service. Advocates will help you understand your rights and help you to make and resolve a complaint against a health provider. Free phone: 0800 555 050
The professional associations for the Chinese medicine profession can offer profession-specific information, advice, and support. However, you should be aware that not all Chinese medicine practitioners belong to a professional association; membership is voluntary.
Acupuncture New Zealand (AcNZ) has a consumer complaints process for the resolution of disputes for Chinese medicine practitioners who are AcNZ members. AcNZ will be able to advise you if a practitioner is a member.
Similarly, the New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority (NZASA) has a consumer complaints process for the resolution of disputes for Chinese medicine practitioners who are NZASA members. NZASA will be able to advise you if a practitioner is a member.
Health and Disability Commissioner
If you are unhappy with the quality of the Chinese medicine service provided to you and have been unable to resolve the matter with the practitioner directly you can lodge a complaint with the Health and Disability Commissioner (“HDC”). Complaints must be in writing.
The HDC will investigate the complaint to determine whether any breach or breaches of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumer Rights (the “Code”) has occurred.
If it determines there has been a breach of the Code, it may refer the matter to the Director of Proceedings, who may lay a charge or charges against the practitioner before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.
Alternatively, the HDC may require the practitioner to undertake changes to the way they practise, for example, a change to their informed consent material and procedures; and may refer the matter to us, if it considers it appropriate to do so.
You can make an online complaint.
If you wish to talk about your complaint you can contact a local HDC advocate 0800 555 050 or a complaints assessor 080011 22 33.
Chinese Medicine Council of New Zealand
You can provide information to the Council about a Chinese medicine practitioner at any time. You can check our register to make sure that the practitioner that you want to let us know about is a practitioner regulated by us.
If the information that you provide indicates that a health consumer has been affected, we must refer the complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) for first consideration. The HDC may or may not proceed to investigate the complaint.
Either way, the complaint may be referred back to us by the HDC to determine whether there has been a breach by the practitioner of their professional or legal responsibilities under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (the HPCA Act).
Our primary responsibility when acting on information received about a Chinese medicine practitioner is the protection of the health and safety of members of the public.
We will assess the information you provide and any other connected information, and decide what, if any, action to take. One of those actions might be to discuss with you and the practitioner the type of additional information that we need to be able to decide our next steps. There are a number of options available to the Council including:
- reviewing the practitioner’s competence;
- reviewing the practitioner’s fitness to practise due to any health condition;
- referring the complaint for investigation by a professional conduct committee;
- writing the practitioner an educational letter recommending that they review the Council’s standards, reflect on their actions or processes, and report back to the Council on any changes they have made to become compliant and/or avoid similar complaints/concerns arising in the future; or
- take no further action on the complaint.
If the practitioner is to be reviewed or investigated and the Council believes they pose a risk of harm to the public, there are interim measures available to the Council to protect the safety of the public, such as:
- suspending the practitioner’s practising certificate
- altering the practitioner’s scope of practice to restrict the services they are permitted to perform, or
- including conditions on the practitioner’s scope of practice, for example, requiring supervision.
How we deal with complaints and concerns
Concerns and complaints about Chinese medicine practitioners fall into one of three categories:
- Competence – is the practitioner competent to practise?
- Conduct – is the practitioner’s conduct appropriate?
- Health – does the practitioner have a physical or mental health issue impairing their practice?
When a complaint is referred to us by the Commissioner, we will act promptly to decide what action should be taken. We cannot take action on a conduct issue while the Commissioner is considering it, however, if the matter casts doubt on the appropriateness of the practitioner’s conduct in their professional capacity, the Council can consider interim measures such as suspending their practising certificate or including one or more conditions for public protection pending the outcome of the matter. In addition, if the complaint raises an issue of competence, we can investigate that while the Commissioner is still considering the matter.
Public safety is our absolute priority in all cases. We do not have any powers to award damages or costs, or to impose discipline. We decide whether an issue of competence exists and take appropriate action, including determining whether the practitioner poses a risk of serious harm to the public. Where that is the case, we have the power to restrict a practitioner’s scope of practice or suspend their registration on an interim basis, during an investigation.
Chinese medicine practitioners must also respect patient rights and follow the Council’s Standards of Professional Conduct. Failing to provide good care or behaving in a way that shows a lack of professional integrity are matters of conduct. These could result in the practitioner facing a disciplinary process.
If you would like to know more about what we expect from Chinese medicine practitioners, have a look at our clinical, cultural, and professional standards. The standards describe the minimum standards of professional conduct, and clinical and cultural competence that patients and the public can expect from Chinese medicine practitioners.
Policy on naming practitioners who are the subject of an order or direction made by the Council
Our primary obligation is to protect the health and safety of the public. This includes ensuring that the public is provided with information in which it has an interest.
When we exercise a statutory power to make any order or direction in respect of a practitioner, we weigh the public interest in publishing the name of the practitioner against their privacy interests, including the consequences for the practitioner’s reputation. Where the balance is even, we will likely favour public interest, and name the practitioner.
There is no set form of publication. We use whichever method seems best to inform those we believe are most likely to have an interest in the information. For example, it could be a letter to an organisation or individuals, a notice in a community newspaper or on electronic media platforms, or a statement on our website.
If we propose to name a practitioner, we first give the practitioner the opportunity to make submissions on the proposal before making a final decision.
Policy on naming practitioners who are the subject of an order or direction made by Council
Contact us if you have a concern about a Chinese medicine practitioner
If you want to raise concerns or provide information about a Chinese medicine practitioner, then you can use the Concern about a Chinese medicine practitioner form or email [email protected] to notify the Registrar. When you contact us we will acknowledge receipt of the information you provide within five working days, and we will respond with advice on the next steps that will be followed.
Please note, neither the Council nor the Health and Disability Commissioner have any power to award compensation or require a Chinese medicine practitioner to give you a refund. Complaints about fees charged by Chinese medicine practitioners is not a matter that can be considered by the HDC or by us.
The Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand is a quick and inexpensive way to settle disputes. The Disputes Tribunal is less formal than a court. A lawyer can’t represent you in the hearing and there are no judges. Each hearing is run by a referee who will consider whether it is appropriate to help parties reach a settlement on a case-by-case basis. Where this is not considered appropriate, the referee will decide on the dispute.
There are limited circumstances under which the Disputes Tribunal can assist in settling matters relating to health services provided. For information on what the Disputes Tribunal can assist with, visit their website at www.disputestribunal.govt.nz or call them on 0800 268 787.
Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)
If you believe you have suffered an injury as a result of the treatment provided to you, you can contact ACC to make a treatment injury claim. ACC may be able to help you with cover for treatment costs, compensation for lost wages, home help assistance, etc. Telephone 0800 101 996.
The best person to help you lodge a claim for treatment injury cover is your GP. You should ensure that you make your claim as soon as possible after your injury – ACC may not be able to accept claims made more than 12 months afterwards. The date also affects when you qualify for help and what help may be available to you.
If you have suffered a mental or physical injury caused by some criminal acts carried out by a Chinese medicine practitioner, e.g. injuries caused by sexual violence, you can lodge a sensitive claim with ACC. Information on the types of crimes covered as a sensitive claim and the support available can be found on ACC’s website.
Sensitive claims can be lodged by medical practitioners, nurse practitioners and nurses, registered or contracted counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers. Lodgement of these claims may be many years after the event and the event doesn’t need to be reported to Police or other authorities.