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Changes to health practitioners that can issue certificates

The Land Transport Act 1998 and associated Driver Licensing Rule previously limited fitness to drive assessments to general practitioners, optometrists and occupational therapists.

Under law changes that came into effect on 8 November 2018 appropriately qualified nurse practitioners and registered nurses, working within their scope of practice, will also be able to carry out a fitness to drive assessment.

These changes were enacted by the Land Transport Amendment Act 2016. For example, references in section 18 of the Land Transport Act to a 'medical practitioner or optometrist' are replaced by 'health practitioner'.

This change reflects New Zealand's changing health care environment and recognises that, for example, appropriately qualified and competent nurse practitioners and specialist registered nurses have the expert clinical knowledge and skills to assess fitness to drive.

Scope of practice is defined in the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.

Section 8 of that Act makes it clear that health practitioners must:

  • have a current practising certificate issued by the responsible authority (such as the Nursing Council of New Zealand)
  • not practise outside their scope of practice unless permitted to do so by the scope of practice
  • perform that service in accordance with any conditions stated in the scope of practice.

Responsible authorities are responsible for defining scopes of practice, which can include a description of tasks commonly performed by that profession (section 11 of that Act).