About the HPCA Act

The HPCA Act was introduced by the government in 2003.

The principle purpose of the Act is “to protect the health and safety of members of the public by providing for mechanisms to ensure that health practitioners are competent and fit to practice their professions”.

The Act sets out the rules for the way practitioners are registered, the process for complaints and how professional competence is maintained and assessed.

The Act includes ways to make sure health practitioners are competent and fit to practice their professions for the duration of their professional lives.

Having one Act for the regulation of health professionals means there are consistent procedures and terminology across all those professions.

Examples of other health practitioners currently covered by this Act include doctors, nurses, midwives, chiropractors, dentists, dental hygienists, psychotherapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, medical laboratory scientists and many others.

In total 21 health professional groups are regulated under the Act.

The Act is divided into 7 parts:

Preliminary and Key Provisions

  • unqualified persons must not claim to be a health practitioner
  • health practitioners must not practice outside their scope of practice
  • certain activities are restricted to (or can only be done by) registered health practitioners

Registration of, and Practising Certificates for, Health Practitioners

  • prescribes scopes of practice, qualifications, and experience
  • how to register practitioners and authorise scopes of practice
  • issuing practicing certificates

Competence, Fitness to Practice and Quality Assurance

  • who to notify if a practitioner’s practice is below required standard of competence
  • when competence and recertification programmes are to be set up
  • what to do if a practitioner is unable to perform required functions
  • quality assurance activities

Complaints and Discipline

  • what happens when complaints are referred and when the Responsible Authority can suspend practitioners
  • setting up professional conduct committees (PCCs) to review complaints
  • the Health Practitioners Discipline Tribunal (HPDT)
  • procedures and decisions of Tribunal, findings of Tribunal and recovery of costs and fines


  • provides for appeals to a District Court against the decisions of an authority, and for appeals to the High Court against decisions of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Structures and Administration

  • enables additional health professions to be designated under the Act and Responsible Authorities to be appointed for additional professions
  • sets out the functions of authorities. These include:
    1. prescribing the qualifications required for scopes of practice
    2. authorising the registration of health practitioners
    3. reviewing and maintaining the competence of health practitioners
    4. setting standards of clinical competence, cultural competence, and ethical conduct
    5. setting programmes to ensure the ongoing competence of health practitioners
  • provides for the membership of Responsible Authorities
  • confers certain powers on the Minister in relation to Responsible Authorities
  • requires Responsible Authorities to maintain public registers of health practitioners.

Miscellaneous Provisions, Consequential Amendments and Repeals, and Transitional Provisions

Restrictive activities

The Minister of Health can, under section 9 of the HPCA Act, restrict certain activities to registered health practitioners when, after consultation, the Minister is satisfied that there is a risk of serious or permanent harm from the activity.

The current list of restricted activities was consulted on and agreed in 2005. The activities are:

  • Surgical or operative procedures below the gingival margin or the surface of the skin, mucous membranes or teeth.
  • Clinical procedures involved in the insertion and maintenance of fixed and removable orthodontic or oral and maxillofacial prosthetic appliances.
  • Prescribing of enteral or parenteral nutrition where the feed is administered through a tube into the gut or central venous catheter.
  • Prescribing of an ophthalmic appliance, optical appliance or ophthalmic medical device intended for remedial or cosmetic purposes or for the correction of a defect of sight.
  • Performing a psychosocial intervention with an expectation of treating a serious mental illness without the approval of a registered health practitioner. A review of the Act is proposing deletion of this task
  • Applying high velocity, low amplitude manipulative techniques to cervical spinal joints.

Click here to read the HPCA Act.

Click here for more information about the HPCA Act.