Transformation a focus of Health and Disability Commissioner’s Office Annual Report

 The ongoing challenges of COVID-19 has thrust the health and disability system to the front and centre of the public’s consciousness.

“The system has continued to respond well to the health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now a period of significant transformation is looming,” says Health and Disability Commissioner, Morag McDowell.

“I am pleased to see that the key aim of the health reforms announced during this year is a more people-centred system. The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) will be vitally important in the context of crisis and transformation.

“It’s crucial we maintain a focus on the needs of consumers in this environment,” says Ms McDowell.

During the 2020/21 year, HDC experienced a 14% increase in complaints and 130% increase in the number of cases referred to HDC’s Investigations Team.

“Complaints reflect the issues consumers and their whānau care most about. While we closed a record number of 4,974 complaints this year, meeting demand is a constant challenge and we are working to adapt our processes to meet the needs and expectations of our consumers and their whānau.

“We will continue to pay close attention to people’s concerns and work with providers of services to resolve these in the most effective and appropriate way.

“There is a strong commitment across the health and disability sector to address the prevalent inequities of our system in the transformation ahead.

“One of HDC’s key priorities is to strengthen our approach to equity, honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and enhancing our contribution to an equitable health and disability system.

“We have introduced analysis of our ethnicity data into our six-monthly reports on complaints involving district health boards, and will continue to find ways to improve our processes for Māori and other people who are disadvantaged by the current system.

“Alongside this, we continue to work with the Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service to reach priority groups,” says Ms McDowell.

HDC received a record high of 391 complaints about mental health and addiction services in 2020/21, representing a 33% increase from the previous year, and a 58% increase over five years.

“HDC has long supported the establishment of a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission with a broader wellbeing mandate.

“Work by former Mental Health Commissioner, Kevin Allan laid the foundation for the creation of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

“I acknowledge the tireless work undertaken by Kevin to monitor and advocate for improvements to mental health and addiction services on behalf of tangata whaiora over a number of years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to do things differently to provide support for mental health and addiction issues and to promote wellbeing more broadly.

“The numerous iwi, community, whānau, and individual initiatives that emerged in the response to COVID-19 offer lessons in how to promote wellbeing, and illustrate the power people have in contributing to collective wellbeing.

“My team and I look forward to championing the voices of consumers through the process of transformation for the changes ahead,” says Ms McDowell.

Read HDC’s 2020/21 Annual Report (PDF 2.1mb)