Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the significance of the decision to regulate paramedics?
In November 2019, the Minister of Health announced that paramedics would become regulated by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (the Act) as at 1 January 2020. This is the same legislation that regulates other health professions in New Zealand, including Nursing, Medicine, Dentistry, Physiotherapy etc.
It is important to note that the principal purpose of regulating paramedics under the Act is public protection through ensuring that paramedics are competent and fit to practise.
The Minister’s decision also authorises the establishment of Te Kaunihera Manapou Paramedic Council (the Council) under the Act. The Council will be the statutory authority (known as a “responsible authority”) for the regulation of paramedics under the Act. Its role will be to meet its statutory obligations to ensure that paramedics are competent and fit to practise.
You can access an online copy of the Act here.
2. What are the obligations of the Council?
The obligations of all responsible authorities are set out under section 118 of the Act and are:
It will take time to set systems up to meet all of these obligations.
- to prescribe the qualifications required for scopes of practice within the profession, and, for that purpose, to accredit and monitor educational institutions and degrees, courses of studies, or programmes:
- to authorise the registration of paramedics under this Act, and to maintain registers
- to consider applications for annual practising certificates:
- to review and promote the competence of paramedics:
- to recognise, accredit, and set programmes to ensure the ongoing competence of paramedics:
- to receive information from any person about the practice, conduct, or competence of paramedics and, if it is appropriate to do so, act on that information:
- to notify employers, the Accident Compensation Corporation, the Director-General of Health, and the Health and Disability Commissioner that the practice of a paramedic may pose a risk of harm to the public:
- to consider the cases of paramedics who may be unable to perform the functions required for the practice of the profession:
- to set standards of clinical competence, cultural competence (including competencies that will enable effective and respectful interaction with Māori), and ethical conduct to be observed by paramedics:
- to liaise with other authorities appointed under this Act about matters of common interest:
- to promote and facilitate inter-disciplinary collaboration and co-operation in the delivery of health services:
- to promote education and training in the profession:
- to promote public awareness of the responsibilities of the authority:
- to exercise and perform any other functions, powers, and duties that are conferred or imposed on it by or under this Act or any other enactment.
3. What are the other important things I should know about the Act?
The other significant aspect of regulation is title protection. Section 7 of the Act sets out that only people who are registered as paramedics with the Council may claim to be a paramedic or use words, titles, initials, abbreviations or descriptions implying that they are a paramedic. Similarly, no person may claim to be practising paramedicine unless they are registered as a paramedic AND hold a current practising certificate as a paramedic. The purpose of title protection is to help members of the public differentiate between health practitioners who are part of a statutory competence assurance model, and other people who cannot demonstrate that. Members of the public can then choose whether they want to receive services from a registered health practitioner or an unregulated person.
Title protection comes with obligations on those who are authorised to use the title. So, if you become registered as a paramedic and use the title “paramedic” you will have obligations to demonstrate that you are fit and competent to practise, and to comply with all requirements set by the Council. This will include standards of clinical competence, standards of cultural safety, and standards of ethical conduct (as required by the Act) as well as a range of other requirements.
4. Can I still call myself a paramedic now?
If you are using the title paramedic at the moment, and have a reasonable basis to do so, the Ministry of Health advises that it would not propose taking any enforcement action regarding the use of the title. However, once the Council has been established and systems have been put in place to open registrations as a paramedic, it is likely that the Council will put a time limit in place for people currently working as paramedics to become registered. After that time limit, if you are not registered, you would no longer be able to call yourself a paramedic, and may be referred to the Ministry of Health to consider prosecution under section 7 of the Act if you continue to do so.
The Council will communicate more about this in due course.
5. When can I register as a paramedic?
Although the Minister of Health has authorised the establishment of the Council to regulate paramedics from 1 January 2020, there are a lot of things that need to happen before the Council will start the process to register paramedics. This includes:
- Appointing the Council; and
- Once the Council is established, it will need to set up the systems for registration, including;
- Meeting the legal requirements under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act to define the paramedic scope of practice and prescribe qualifications for registration,
- administrative tasks such as developing a registration database.
For this reason, the Council is unlikely to be in a position to open applications for registration and practising certificates until the second half of 2020.
6. If I already have registration in Australia, will I be able to register in New Zealand?
Yes. The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997 recognises occupational registration in both countries. This means that a person who is registered with a registering body in New Zealand can be registered in Australia, and vice versa. This is a registration pathway that the Council will recognise in due course.
7. Do I need to have professional indemnity insurance (PII) to register as a paramedic in New Zealand?
A number of paramedics have asked this question. It is not a requirement of the Act that paramedics hold PII. Requirements for registration are listed under sections 15 and 16 of the Act. It is a decision for each individual paramedic as to whether they consider they should hold PII. While PII is a requirement for registration in Australia to cover health practitioners from malpractice claims against them. New Zealand’s unique no-fault ACC scheme means that treatment injuries etc are generally covered by that programme. However, access to PII can be useful in the event of a conduct, competence or fitness issue notified to the regulator, or disciplinary proceedings against a practitioner.
8. What will registration cost?
This is a matter for the Council to determine once it has been established. All proposed fees and levies will be consulted on before they are set. It is important to remember that registration is a one-off fee, but all registered and practising paramedics will also be required to apply for an annual practising certificate every year. It is the practising certificate fee that covers the Council’s operating costs. The Council may also establish a disciplinary levy. The reason for this is that disciplinary investigations and proceedings must be conducted using a separate pool of funds, and this separation must be demonstrated during annual audit.
9. Who do I contact if I have questions about whether I will be able to register?
At this stage, we are not able to answer questions about individual circumstances. We ask all individuals to be patient and await further news after the Council has been established. The PRA is aware that there are people working in paramedicine from a range of professional backgrounds, and that the Council will need to have a way to assess those backgrounds as part of the registration application process.
10. I don’t have a formal qualification in paramedicine. Will I be able to register based on my experience?
The PRA recognises that there are many industry-trained paramedics working in the sector. It is developing several registration pathways (known under the Act as “prescribed qualifications”) to recommend to the Council - including at least one industry training pathway. Once the Council has considered (and, if necessary, amended) the PRA’s suggested approach, it will consult with the profession before setting the final prescribed qualifications for registration.