Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) I only work part time, why do I have to pay the full APC fee?
In order to practise as an optometrist or a dispensing optician in New Zealand an annual practising certificate must be held and these are issued on an annual basis from 1 April to 31 March each year. The fee is structured to encompass the timeframe of the APC and is not calculated on the number of hours worked by the practitioner. In this way it is much like a passport – it does not matter how often it is used during its valid year ‘life’, it still has to be valid and costs the same for all.
Q2) I completed a self audit not that long ago, why am I being asked to complete another one?
A new selection process was implemented in January 2013. The Board randomly audits up to 30% of practising optometrists and dispensing opticians within a two year cycle. A practitioner who has been randomly selected and has completed the process is then eligible for re-selection after four years has passed from the date of their last completed audit, effective from January 2013. If you have completed an audit since this new process was implemented and are being asked to complete another random audit, please contact the Board to clarify if the recent request may have been sent to you in error.
Q3) What will happen if I don’t pass my self audit?
You will be notified in writing that your self audit has not been passed and you may be asked to provide additional information or clarification. If you are unable to provide this information or the information provided is still deemed insufficient or of concern, your case will be referred to the Professional Standards Committee for consideration. They will review your case and determine if there is cause for concern that you may not be practising at the required standard. If the Committee is concerned, they may determine that:
- you be asked to undergo a competence review
- your scope of practice be altered
- by changing any health services that you are permitted to perform; or
- by including any condition or conditions that the Board considers appropriate;
- your registration be suspended.
Conditions that may be included in practitioner’s scope of practice under section 43 include, but are not limited to:
- a requirement to undertake education in the area(s) of concern, as specified by the Board
- a requirement to work under the clinical supervision of a Board nominated practitioner for a period specified by the Board. The Board nominated practitioner must have been registered for at least two years in at least an equivalent scope of practice and must hold a current APC.
Before deciding whether any of the above orders are to be made, the Board will give the practitioner:
- notice of the reasons that it is considering making such an order
- a copy of any information on which the Board is relying in its proposal
- the opportunity to make written submissions and/or be heard on the matter.
Q4) I am struggling to meet the recertification requirements because I can’t get to the big annual conferences, what can I do?
Planning is the key to meeting the recertification requirements. While annual conferences are a good source of CPD, there are also many other events and online activities available to practitioners. The Board considers that there is ample CPD available for all practitioners to be able to meet the requirements. If the end of a recertification cycle is nearing and you feel you may not meet the requirements, please contact the Registrar for advice.
Q5) A patient has threatened to make a complaint to the HDC about me, what should I do?
All patients/health consumers have a right to complain under the Code of Health & Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code), and as a health provider you must facilitate the fair, simple, speedy, and efficient resolution of any complaints. Make sure that you are aware of your patient’s rights under the Code, that you know what your own obligations are, and that you or your practice have a complaints procedure of your own in case a patient should come to you directly to make a complaint.
If a patient does make a complaint to the HDC, make sure that you give this matter your full attention if the HDC asks you to respond to the complaint and that you provide any information to the HDC that may be requested.
It may also be a good idea to contact your indemnity insurance provider to let them know about the complaint as well as your professional association if you are a member of one.
Q6) I am thinking of retiring soon and closing my practice, what are my obligations in terms of continuity of care for my patients?
The Board recommends that the following steps be taken when closing a practice:
- If possible, letters or emails should be sent to patients advising them of the upcoming closure of the practice and what is to happen to their patient records.
- If step one is not possible, at the very least, notice of the closure needs to be placed in local publications, indicating where patients may gain access to and/or request transfer of their records.
- Notice of the closure should be left at the practice address for as long as possible after the closure of the practice, informing patients where they may gain access to and/or request transfer of their records.
- If possible, the practice owner should attempt to negotiate transfer of the records to another local practice, where they can be stored securely and be readily accessed as necessary by patients who may or may not decide to become a patient of that practice.
- Notification of the practice closure and where records have been transferred or are being stored should be lodged with the Board, in the event that patient enquiries about the closure are received.
Health providers have a legal responsibility under the Privacy Act 1993 and Health Information Privacy Code 1994 to ensure that health records are securely stored and are also able to be readily accessed, on written request, by health consumers. If you are not familiar with these responsibilities or wish to refresh your memory, please visit the website of the Privacy Commissioner located at www.privacy.org.nz
Q7) My patient has asked for a copy of their recent prescription so they can get their eyewear elsewhere. Do I have to provide them with this?
There is no legal definition of what constitutes a prescription for an optical or ophthalmic appliance, but if a patient requests a copy of their records then their prescription would form part of their patient records. Section 22F of the Health Act 1956 requires that health information must be disclosed upon request from the individual to whom the information relates. A request by the patient can only be refused on limited grounds and you should seek legal advice if you consider that there are grounds for withholding an individual’s information from them.
Q8) Do I have to provide their prescription details if the patient has fees outstanding with the practice?
Yes, you are still obligated to provide the patient’s records, as above.
Q9) I’m going on maternity leave shortly, what do I need to do about my registration with the Board?
You need to notify the Board when you intend to go on maternity leave and also the ADONZ/NZAO. If you are not returning to practise before your current APC expires then you need to return your APC to the Board and you will not be required to record CPD for the remaining period that you are on leave. You can reapply for an APC when you return to work. The Board will still contact you at renewal time each year, so you can advise us what your practising intentions are for the upcoming year.
Q10) If I am not ‘technically’ practising on the day I fill in my application to renew my practising certificate, what is the correct way to answer the question on the application which relates to whether I am or am not practising at the date of my application?
This question is asking you whether you are, at the date you are completing the application, practising the profession in respect of which you are registered. If you just happen to have the day off that day, you do not need to respond indicating that you are not practising. But, if you are on parental leave or extended leave for any reason, or are between jobs or not currently attending work on a regular basis, for whatever reason, then you should be indicating that you are not practising at the date of the application. On receiving your application, the Board will then seek further information from you on what your specific situation is.
The asking of this question is a requirement for applications to renew practising certificates under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, so it is important that you answer this question correctly.
Q11) I’m a Dispensing Optician. Can I practise without registration and a practising certificate?
In New Zealand, only the title ‘Dispensing Optician’ is protected under the HPCA Act. This means that those who are qualified in optical dispensing can make a choice about whether they wish to be registered with the Board.
If you decide to be registered and are successful on application, you must use the title ‘Dispensing Optician’ and must maintain a current practising certificate with the Board if you intend to practise, to assure your patients that you remain fit and competent to practise.
If you decide not to be registered, you must not practise using the title ‘Dispensing Optician’ or any title similar enough to this to be misleading to members of the public. If you do use this title (or something similar) you risk prosecution by the Ministry of Health. There is no requirement to have a practising certificate if you are not registered. Click here to access the Board’s information pamphlet on this topic.
Q12) I’ve been convicted of an offence. Do I need to tell the Board?
Yes, you are obligated to notify the Board of a conviction. You should contact the Board as soon as you are notified of the conviction. You will note that you are asked to make a declaration each practising year as to whether you have been the subject of a conviction when you renew your APC. If you are the subject of a conviction or are concerned that you may shortly be the subject of one, please contact the Board’s Registrar to discuss the situation and receive advice on what the Board requires of you.
Q13) I’m concerned that my colleague may not be well enough to practise safely but I don’t want to get them into trouble. What should I do?
If you have reason to believe that an optometrist or dispensing optician is not performing the required functions to practise their profession due to a mental or physical condition, under Section 45(2) of the HPCA Act, you are legally required to notify the Registrar of your concerns. The notification should be in writing and give notice of all the circumstances.