The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 stipulates that one of the Council’s functions is to set standards of clinical competence, cultural competence, and ethical conduct to be observed by oral health practitioners.
At the moment, these standards are contained within Council codes of practice and statements. Prior to the implementation of the Act, it was the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA), that developed the codes of practice, and these were regarded as the professional standards for dentists and dental specialists. In 2003, NZDA kindly offered these codes of practice to Council, which were then modified as needed and adopted by Council for dentists and dental specialists. Over time, these documents have been adjusted to accommodate codes of practice for dental therapists, dental hygienists, orthodontic auxiliaries, clinical dental technicians and dental technicians.
All oral health practitioners are legally accountable to the standards set by the Council. Whereas, professional associations’ standards are designed to guide practitioners towards best practice.
Practice audits have revealed that practitioner clarity with regard to professional expectations and the standards that must be complied with is not as robust as it could be. The Council view is that this may well be attributed to the absence of a strong link between Council’s ethical principles and the various codes of practice.
In response to this, Council has developed a proposed Standards Framework for Oral Health Practitioners, which sets the ethical principles, professional standards and practice standards.
Council is committed to full and robust collaborative engagement on the proposed new standards framework, through its consultation process with stakeholders. The consultation document on the proposed Standards Framework for Oral Health Practitioners will be issued shortly.