The Health Practitioners Tribunal hears cases relating to health practitioners.  These generally relate to charges from the Director of Proceedings of the Health & Disability Commissioner or the Professional Conduct Committees appointed by the various registration authorities.  The Tribunal also considers convictions from the Courts.  Once a charge has been laid it is sent to the Tribunal and the Tribunal sets a date of hearing no more than 60 days from the date of the charge.  It then advises the health professional of the particulars of the charge, the date of hearing, the date of a directions conference and any information regarding name suppression or privacy applications.  Health practitioners are to advise the Tribunal within 10 working days if they intend to appear at the hearing.  At the same time the Tribunal Secretariat will notify the other parties of the relevant details.

If the prosecution considers that interim suspension is necessary it will make an application to the Tribunal which will then have a hearing regarding interim suppression.

In relation to the main hearing the Tribunal will conduct a telephone conference pre-hearing with counsel for the parties and the Chair of the Tribunal to discuss any issues of law or fact and how evidence is to be presented.  A timetable will be put in place and applications for name suppression or privacy can also be dealt with.

A Tribunal will then be selected which will comprise either the Chair or Deputy-Chair of the Tribunal and three registered health practitioners plus one public member of the Tribunal.  A technical adviser can also be appointed if required.  Hearings are publicly notified in appropriate newspapers as the hearings are open to the public.

Prior to the hearing both the prosecution and defence will exchange Briefs of Evidence and agreed documentation.

The proceeding is then held in public unless otherwise ordered.  After the taking of evidence from all witnesses and questioning by the Tribunal and counsel for the parties the Tribunal will if possible issue a verbal decision on the day.  This is followed by a written decision within three to four weeks.

However, if the matter complicated or the decision is uncertain the Tribunal will reserve its decision and provide a written decision as soon as possible.  If the decision finds any of the charges upheld then submissions from the parties on penalties are received and the Tribunal then makes a supplementary decision on the penalties to be imposed.

Parties can then appeal to the High Court within 20 working days on receipt of the decision.

Alan Knowsley

Medical Lawyer