The Psychologists Board is mandated to protect the health and safety of members of the New Zealand public in their dealings with psychologists. A member of the public who has a concern about a psychologist is encouraged to first discuss their concerns with the psychologist. If that proves unsatisfactory, the Board recommends they contact the psychologist’s employer or contracting agency (e.g., ACC, or the Family Court) for assistance in resolving the concern.
Members of the public can contact the Board at any stage to discuss their concerns informally. If they subsequently decide to make a formal complaint (or notification where there are fitness or competence concerns), the Board will follow the process prescribed by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (the Act).
The processing of formal complaints
When a complaint is received, if it involves a health consumer it must be referred to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC). If the scope of the complaint is not clear, the complaint will be referred to the HDC for preliminary assessment.
The Board cannot take any action under Part 4 of the Act on a complaint while it is being assessed or investigated by the HDC. (It can, however, take action under other Parts of the Act).
Formal complaints are normally dealt with as follows:
- The complaint is received by the Registrar.
- An acknowledgment letter is sent to the complainant advising them of the Board’s complaints process.
- The practitioner concerned receives a copy of the complaint and is advised of the Board’s complaints process.
- If a health consumer is affected the complaint is forwarded to the HDC. If the matter involves the Family Court (FC) the complaint will be forwarded to the appropriate FC coordinator.
- Once the HDC and/or the FC sends the complaint back to the Board (by formal referral or otherwise), the practitioner is asked for comment.
- The CCF Committee reviews all of the relevant documentation and determines the appropriate course of action.
- The CCF Committee may decide:
- to refer the complaint to a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC),
- the matter is more appropriately dealt with as a competence or fitness matter, and request a competence or fitness assessment,
- the matter is more appropriately dealt with by another agency so will refer the matter to the appropriate agency,
- to take no further action,
If the complaint has been referred to a PCC, they will investigate the matter and report their findings to the CCF Committee, the practitioner, and the complainant. Following its investigation, a PCC must make one or more recommendations, or one determination, or both.
You can read more about the Board’s complaints process here.
Professional Conduct Committees
The Board may appoint a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) to investigate a complaint and/or to investigate the circumstances of certain offences committed by psychologists. PCCs are composed of two psychologists and one layperson. A PCC may also appoint a legal adviser to advise it on matters of law, procedure, or evidence.
You can read more about the PCC process here.
Guidelines about PCCs
The Board has developed comprehensive guidelines to assist PCCs, psychologists being investigated by a PCC, and complainants who have had their complaint referred to a PCC. These are provided to relevant parties following confirmation of the membership of the PCC.