By Taima Campbell, co-chair (Maori Caucus) of College of Nurses Aotearoa and former Auckland DHB director of nursing
Most of us hope it will never happen – and for most it never will – but in the 2010-11 year, a small number of nurses were notified to the New Zealand Nursing Council regarding competence and conduct (see table).
The New Zealand system of competence assurance focuses on individual accountability and compliance with regulatory requirements. Consequently, professional indemnity is something we all need to have.
Indemnity insurance covers you for claims related to your professional practice such as:
Negligence claims or errors that may lead to injury, death, or damage.
• Disciplinary and competency proceedings – eg. Nursing Council; Health & Disability Commissioner Investigations.
• Coroner’s inquests.
The College of Nurses has a professional indemnity insurance programme for members that provides up to $1 million per policy period (per year), and members do not pay any excess on a claim. The policy has coverage for 24 hours a day, anywhere within New Zealand, and applies in the course of a nurse’s regular job or while assisting at a roadside accident.
The current Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) scheme means that, generally, health practitioners cannot be sued for compensation. However, there are still some circumstances where patients may sue. Health practitioners may also face or be involved with other forms of legal action where they require legal representation.
Facing a possible claim?
• Contact the College office as soon as you can to discuss your situation with the executive director.
• The executive director may recommend a support person for you in your area and/or refer you onto the insurance claim team and legal representation.
• Make your own notes on the events surrounding the claim as soon as possible – and be honest and factual.
• Notify the College prior to any meetings you have with your employer about the situation.
• If you require representation, the College’s legal team and insurer will liaise directly with you. They will keep the College informed as the claim proceeds.
NZNO competence & conduct notifications (2010-11)
Fitness to practise
• The Council received 72 notifications about the competence of 70 nurses (0.15% of all nurses practising at the end of March 2011).
• The number of notifications about the competence of nurses is declining – down from 93 in 2009-2010 and 105 in 2008-2009.
• 81 inquiries were completed into notifications about competence. No further action was required in relation to 16 nurses, and 65 nurses were assessed as requiring competence reviews. 12 cases were still at the inquiry phase at the end of the year.
• 54 competence reviews were conducted.
Concerns about conduct
• Professional Conduct Committees (PCCs) for conduct issues.
• Seven complaints required no further action, and nine had charges laid with the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT), with the balance either receiving letters of counsel or being referred for health or competence reviews. Two nurses had conditions included in their scopes of practice.
• 61 nurses had court convictions consideredâ€¨by PCCs to determine whether the convictions could reflect adversely on their fitness to practise. Four had charges laid before the HPDT, 27 received letters of counsel, and 21 had their cases referred for reviews of their health. Nine required noâ€¨further action.
• PCCs appointed by the Council prosecutedâ€¨10 charges before the HPDT. Eight were charges of professional misconduct and two were brought following a criminal conviction.
• The HPDT found seven nurses guilty of charges of professional misconduct. As a consequence, three nurses had their registrations cancelled and three had their registrations suspended. One nurse appealed the finding. One nurse was found not guilty of professional misconduct. Two nurses were found to have convictions that reflected adversely on their fitness to practise. Both had their registrations cancelled.