Referral to a health professional Council

Why is the complaint being referred to the relevant Council?

Councils in NSW deal with complaints about the conduct, professional performance, health and competence (fitness to practise) of registered health practitioners and students working in NSW. This includes practitioners in 14 health professions, such as medical practitioners, nurses and midwives, dental practitioners, psychologists and podiatrists. A list of the health professional Councils can be found at the end of this page.

Please note:
The Commission does not investigate all complaints: only those that raise serious issues of public health and safety, or would lead to disciplinary action against the health practitioner are referred for formal investigation. Some complaints may not reach this threshold, but the Commission and the health professional Councils believe that there are important issues that can best be addressed by the relevant Council. It is these matters that are referred to the Councils. Once a complaint is referred to a Council, the Commission is no longer involved in the complaint.

What happens next?

The Council should contact you within the next few weeks. If you have not heard from the Council or have any questions in relation to the complaint, please contact the relevant Council on 1300 197 177 (for all Councils except the Medical Council), or the Medical Council on (02) 9879 2200.

What can a Council do?

The Councils have conduct, health and performance programs to which they can refer the practitioner.

Conduct program

If a complaint relates to the professional conduct of the practitioner and does not require investigation by the Commission, the Council may interview and/or counsel the practitioner in writing or in person.

Health program

If a practitioner has an impairment that affects or is likely to affect their ability to practise, the Council can manage the practitioner through its health program. The primary purpose of the Health Program is to protect the public whilst maintaining impaired practitioners in practice, but only if it is safe to do so. A guiding principle under which the Health Program operates is that restrictions are only placed on a practitioner’s practice if they are necessary to ensure that health services are provided safely and are of appropriate quality.

Not all health issues will result in intervention by the Council. The types of impairment which usually result in some form of intervention are psychiatric illnesses e.g. addiction to or self-administration of prescription or illicit drugs, alcohol abuse, a physical illness or disability or a cognitive impairment.

Most impaired practitioners can continue to practise with appropriate limitations. This is achieved by placing conditions on the practitioner’s registration; the conditions that relate to the practitioner’s health and treatment are usually not published in the Register. Practitioners subject to conditions can be monitored by a Council over an extended period of time.

A practitioner can only exit the health program when the Council is satisfied that the practitioner has actively sought to manage his or her impairment, is willing and able to take responsibility for his/her own health and is safe to practise without conditions.

Performance Program

The Performance Program deals with practitioners where there are concerns about the standard of their professional performance. Professional performance means the knowledge, skill or judgment possessed and applied by the practitioner in the practice of the practitioner’s profession. One or more peers appointed by a Council assess a practitioner’s practice, often in an actual clinical situation. The aim is to determine whether the practitioner is competent to practise. 

If a practitioner’s performance is a concern following assessment, the practitioner may be referred to a Performance Review Panel to consider whether conditions on practice are necessary. Conditions may relate to education or public protection or both. Educational conditions may include requiring the practitioner to attend courses, spend time observing another practitioner or engage in additional Continuing Professional Development activities. Conditions imposed for public protection may include the limitation on the scope of practice or requiring supervision.

Monitoring conditions

Conditions imposed on a practitioner’s registration will be published on the National Registers of Health Practitioners. However, the details of health related conditions may not be published on the register.

Councils are also responsible for monitoring conditions following a performance, conduct or health outcome. Conditions remain on a practitioner’s registration as long as it is necessary to protect the health and safety of the public.

More information

The Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) provides administrative, secretarial and financial support to the NSW health professional Councils. The HPCA assist the Councils in carrying out their regulatory and legislative functions under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.

If you need more information about the NSW health professional Councils, contact the Health Professional Councils Authority who will assist you in relation to the relevant health professional council listed below:

  • Aboriginal Medical Practitioners Council of NSW
  • Chinese Medicine Council of NSW
  • Chiropractic Council of NSW
  • Dental Council of NSW
  • Medical Council of NSW
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council of NSW
  • Occupational Therapy Council of NSW
  • Optometry Council of NSW
  • Osteopathy Council of NSW
  • Pharmacy Council of NSW
  • Physiotherapy Council of NSW
  • Podiatry Council of NSW
  • Psychology Council of NSW
  • Medical Radiation Practice Council of NSW

Contact the Councils

All Councils, except the Medical Council, can be contacted through the

Health Professional Councils Authority

Telephone:  1300 197 177
TTY Service: (02) 9219 0250
Facsimile:  (02) 9281 2030
Email:  mail@hpca.nsw.gov.au

The Medical Council can be contacted
Telephone:  (02) 9879 2200
Fax:   (02) 9816 5307
Email:  mcnsw@mcnsw.org.au
Office hours: 9.00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays).