The Review of the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994 and the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights (PDF, 845Kb) was reported to the Minister of Health, and was tabled by the Minister in Parliament on 25 August 2004.
The review process started in November 2003 when invitations were sent out to key stakeholders asking for preliminary feedback on the operation of the Act and Code. Those comments, together with the Commissioner's own views, were compiled in a consultation document that was distributed in February 2004. The consultation document (PDF, 386Kb) canvassed a wide range of issues, including the changes that were imminent under the HDC Amendment Act 2003, and a number of key provisions were highlighted for discussion.
During March and April 2004, submissions were again invited from interested organisations and individuals, as well as from the public at large as part of a nationwide consultation process. Release of the consultation document coincided with national and local media releases announcing the reviews. The HDC free phone 0800 number was available for those wishing to request information or to make an oral submission. The consultation document was also posted on the HDC website and received 1,908 hits during March and April 2004.
In addition to the invitation for submissions, feedback on the Act and Code was obtained during a series of meetings. Public meetings were held throughout the country and were advertised beforehand by public notice and local media releases. Māori and Pacific Island Focus group meetings were also held.
Sixty-three submissions were received in response to the consultation process. Many of the submissions applauded the work of the Health and Disability Commissioner and supported the changes coming into effect in September 2004. Other common areas of discussion included access to HDC services by disabled consumers, alternative structures for HDC advocacy services, the recent amendment to right 7(10), whether consumer responsibilities should be included in the Code, and whether the Code should include a right to access services. A number of submissions also made operational suggestions that have been, or will be, adopted by the Commissioner.
The submissions were analysed and incorporated into the Commissioner's Report which was presented to the Minister of Health on 30 June 2004. The Report confirms that, overall, the Act and Code are operating effectively. The Commissioner has, however, suggested that reviews of the Act and Code occur less frequently, that the Act reflect the Office's current practice of honouring Treaty principles and that the Code be amended to cover research involving consumers who are not competent to consent.
"Although this review has confirmed that little legislative change is required, it has been a valuable opportunity to receive feedback from those who use the Act and Code on a daily basis, and to raise awareness about how the Act will change in September," says Commissioner Ron Paterson.
Although the report has recommended changes to the Act and Code, those changes will not come into effect unless the Government decides to adopt the Commissioner's recommendations.