Before you make a complaint
If you are unhappy with the quality or result of the treatment provided to you, or dissatisfied with the provider’s service, or conduct, or the costs of treatment, or you have suffered an injury as a result of the treatment, you should first contact the dental provider who provided the treatment to try to resolve your dissatisfaction.
It is important that you understand what has happened and what your provider 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 provider by writing a letter to them.
Then, if the dental provider is unable or unwilling to solve your problem to your satisfaction, or you have not been able to approach the provider directly to discuss your complaint, 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:
- Health and Disability Commissioner free advocacy service
- Professional Associations
- Health and Disability Commissioner
- Dental Council
- Disputes Tribunal
- Accident Compensation Corporation.
HDC free advocacy service
The Health and Disability Commissioner (“HDC”) offers a free advocacy service. They can put you in touch with a patient advocate in your area who can help you understand your rights and help you to make and resolve a complaint against a health provider.
The professional associations for the various oral health professions can offer profession-specific information, advice and support. However, you should be aware that not all oral health practitioners belong to a professional association; membership is voluntary.
The New Zealand Dentists’ Association (“NZDA”) has a consumer complaints process and a peer review system for the resolution of disputes concerning the quality and appropriateness of dental treatment provided by dentists or dental specialists who are NZDA members.
NZDA can get involved in financial considerations and recommend that a dentist refund part or all of a fee, or that they be responsible for the cost of any remedial work required by a patient.
If a dentist has chosen to be a member of NZDA they are required to abide by any decision reached through its dispute resolution process. NZDA will be able to tell you whether an individual dentist is a member.
The New Zealand Institute of Dental Technologists (“NZIDT”) runs a consumer complaints process and a peer review system for the resolution of disputes concerning the quality and appropriateness of dental technology services provided by dental technicians and clinical dental technicians who are NZIDT members.
Health and Disability Commissioner
If you are unhappy with the quality of the dental service provided to you and have been unable to resolve the matter with the treatment provider you can lodge a complaint with the Health and Disability Commissioner (“HDC”). Complaints should 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 Prosecutions, 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 0800112233.
Complaints to the Dental Council
You can make a written complaint to the Dental Council about an oral health practitioner at any time.
If the complaint indicates that a health consumer has been affected, we must refer the complaint to the 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 provider of their professional or legal responsibilities under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (the “Act”).
Our primary responsibility when responding to a complaint is the protection of the health and safety of members of the public.
We will assess the complaint and any other relevant information and decide what, if any, action to take. There are a number of options available to the Council including:
If the practitioner is to be reviewed or investigated and Council believes they pose a risk of harm to the public, there are interim measures available to Council to protect the safety of the public, such as:
- suspend the practitioner
- alter the practitioner’s scope of practice to restrict the services they are permitted to perform, or
- include conditions on the practitioner’s scope of practice, for example, supervision.
How we deal with complaints
Concerns and complaints about oral health practitioners fall into one of three categories:
- Competence – is the practitioner competent to practise?
- Conduct – is the practitioner’s conduct appropriate?
- Health – is the practitioner with a physical or mental health issue fit to practise?
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 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.
Oral health practitioners must also respect patient rights and follow the principles of ethical conduct for oral health practitioners. 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.
We will not act on an anonymous complaint. The Act and the principles of natural justice require that the complainant participates in the process.
Please note, neither the Dental Council nor the Health and Disability Commissioner have any power to award compensation or require an oral health practitioner to give you a refund. Complaints about fees charged by dental practitioners is not a matter that can be considered by the HDC or by us.
Accident Compensation Corporation
If you believe you have suffered an injury as a result of the treatment provided to you, you can contact the Accident Compensation Corporation (“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 the dental practitioner who provided the treatment that you believe caused the injury. If that is not possible, you can see a different dental professional to ask them to complete the claim forms with you. 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 want to proceed in making a complaint against an oral health practitioner, then put your concerns in writing and submit the information to us. We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint and advise you on the next steps that would be followed.