Patient Rights




As a general rule of thumb, all New Zealanders are protected by certain rights, and must uphold certain responsibilities in relation to health and disability services. The same applies to treatment and health providers where no medical professional is above the law.

On the following pages, I have detailed the major, and in some cases minor, agencies that are involved in the legal sector of healthcare. 

No person should be mistreated or left out of their own care, and no person should have their rights abused. Four major independent agencies have been set up to ensure that these rights are upheld. They are the Human Rights Commission, the Privacy Commission, the Health and Disability Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman. If you feel that your rights are being abused, then these agencies can investigate those breaches and order remedial action to be taken where necessary.

Below you will find an overview of what these agencies provide, how they can help, and how you can access their services.


Human Rights Commission

What can I complain about?
The prohibited grounds of discrimination are set out in section 21 of the Human Rights Act. They are:
        • Age (from age 16 years)
        • Colour
        • Disability
        • Employment Status
        • Ethical Belief (lack of religious belief)
        • Ethnic or National Origins (includes nationality and citizenship)
        • Family Status (having dependents, not having dependents, being married to, or in a civil union or de facto relationship with, a particular person or being a relative of a particular person)
        • Marital Status (single, married, in a civil union or a de facto relationship, separated, a party to a marriage or civil union now dissolved, widowed)
        • Political Opinion (including having no political opinion)
        • Race & Racial Harassment
        • Religious Belief
        • Sex & Sexual Harassment
        • Sexual Orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual)
It is against the law to be discriminated against in many areas of public life, including in work, education, official practice and policy and the provision of goods and services. The Commission can also consider broader human rights issues.

These grounds apply if they currently exist, have existed in the past, are suspected or are assumed to have existed by the person alleged to have discriminated or relate to a relative or associate of a person.

What does the Human Rights Act mean by disability?
The ground of disability covers:
  • physical disability or impairment (e.g. respiratory conditions)
  • physical illness
  • psychiatric illness (e.g. depression or schizophrenia)
  • intellectual or psychological disability or impairment (e.g. learning disorders)
  • any other loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function (e.g. arthritis or amputation)
  • reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair or other remedial means
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness (e.g. HIV/AIDS or hepatitis).
What does the Human Rights Act says about disability?
It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of disability in any of the areas of public life covered by the Act. The Act covers disabilities, which people have presently, have had in the past, or which they are believed to have. It is also unlawful to discriminate against relatives or associates of people with a disability, because of that disability. This can mean, for example, a spouse, carer or business partner.

What are the exceptions applying to disability?
There are a number of circumstances where it is not unlawful to discriminate on the ground of disability. These include:

1.    Reasonable accommodation: If a person requires special services or facilities and it is not reasonable to provide these, then the provider or employer need not provide them.
Example: It may not be reasonable to expect a small business to relocate offices, or pay out large amounts creating disability access in an existing building.

2.    Risk of Harm: If a risk of harm to a person or others is not reasonable to take, then the provider or employer need not take the risk or reduce the risk to an acceptable level. BUT the risk of harm exception does NOT apply if, without unreasonable disruption, reasonable measures could be taken to reduce the risk to a normal level.

3.    In goods and services, a provider of goods and services can:
  • refuse to provide the goods and services if a person’s disability requires they be provided in ‘a special manner’ and the provider cannot reasonably be expected to provide them in that ‘special manner’;
  • provide the goods and services on terms that are more onerous than those which are available to other people if a person’s disability requires they be provided in ‘a special manner’ and the provider cannot reasonably be expected to provide them without requiring more onerous terms.
4.    Insurance:
It is unlawful to refuse to provide insurance by reason of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
It is not unlawful to offer insurance on different terms or conditions for people with a disability if it is based on:
  • actuarial or statistical data, upon which it is reasonable to rely, relating to life expectancy, accidents or sickness or where no data is available
  • reputable medical actuarial advice or opinion, upon which it is reasonable to rely, and which is reasonable in the particular circumstances.
Case note:
A man who suffered from mild asthma had a 50% loading added to his mortgage protection insurance premium because of his condition. The insurance company had relied on data provided by a doctor relating to medical life risks, which gave asthma a rating between 0 and 75%. This did not amount to sufficient data and no indication was given as to why a premium level of 50% had been applied as opposed to 20, 40 or 70%.

5.    In employment (includes pre-employment and advertising):
  • work involving national security
  • authenticity and privacy – domestic employment in a private household
  • crews of ships (staff employed outside of New Zealand)
  • regulations that require the exclusion of people with certain diseases from some jobs. 
Pre-employment questions regarding these specific diseases will be lawful. Health and Safety in Employment Act requires minimum health requirements to be in place. Where safety is an issue, relevant questions can be asked.

General qualification on employment exceptions:
No employer can treat an employee differently (based on a ground), even if an exception applies, if, with some adjustment of activities some other employee can carry out the duties.

6.    Land, housing and accommodation:
  • shared residential accommodation
  • hostels, institutions etc (sex, marital status, religious or ethical belief, disability or age)
  • risk of harm exception.
7.    Superannuation:
It is unlawful for superannuation schemes to treat people differently on the basis of disability except where:
  • the superannuation scheme was in existence before 1 February 1994 and the person became a member of the scheme before 1 January 1996
  • different contributions from, or benefits for members are based on reasonable data.

What can I do?
You can talk to our Infoline service (freephone 0800 496 877), email: infoline@hrc.co.nz, fill out an online complaint form, print out and return the complaint form (PDF 86Kb) or Word version of the complaint form (151Kb), or write to us as at the Human Rights Commission, PO 6751, Wellesley St, Auckland, New Zealand.

What happens?
Staff will provide information to try to help solve your complaint. If your complaint looks like unlawful discrimination, one of our mediators will get in touch. The mediator will help both parties in a dispute to find possible solutions.

Mediators don’t take sides, but will ensure that what happens is fair. Most complaints are sorted out by informal intervention or mediation. The results can include an apology, an agreement not to do the same thing in the future, education or training, and compensation.

The Commission has published a set of guidelines Resolving discrimination and harassment- a guide to making and responding to a complaint under the Human Rights Act 1993 (Word).

What if mediation doesn’t work?
Mediation settles most complaints. If it does not work out, a complainant can take their issue to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. This is like a court. You can apply for free legal representation to the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

Confidentiality
The Human Rights Commission treats enquiries and complaints as confidential.

The Commission is required by the Official Information Act to make a case-by-case assessment of whether information requested under that Act should not be disclosed. It is unlikely that complaints and enquiries will have to be disclosed.

As part of any assessment the Commission will make all reasonable efforts to contact the provider of the information to discuss any concerns.




Privacy Commission


The Privacy Commissioner's Office works to develop and promote a culture in which personal information is protected and respected.

The Privacy Commissioner administers the Privacy Act 1993. The Privacy Act applies to almost every person, business or organisation in New Zealand. The Act sets out 12 privacy principles that guide how personal information can be collected, used, stored and disclosed. To find out more about privacy and what it involves, see About Privacy

The Office is an independent Crown Entity and was set up in 1993. 

The Privacy Commissioner's Office has a wide range of functions. Some of these include investigating complaints about breaches of privacy, running education programmes, and examining proposed legislation and how it may affect individual privacy. 

If you have questions about privacy or want to contact us, contact our enquiries staff at enquiries@privacy.org.nz or see Contact Us.

The Privacy Act and Codes


Personal information held by agencies:

The Privacy Act controls how "agencies" collect, use, disclose, store and give access to "personal information"
The privacy Codes of Practice do the same, but they apply to specific areas - particularly health, telecommunications and credit reporting.

Personal information is information about identifiable, living people. 

Almost every person or organisation that holds personal information is an "agency". So, for example, the Privacy Act covers government departments, companies of all sizes, religious groups, schools and clubs. 

The privacy principles

At the core of the Privacy Act are 12 information privacy principles that set out how agencies may collect, store, use and disclose personal information.

The Privacy Act uses the term “agency”. An agency is any individual, organisation or business, whether in the public sector or the private sector. There are a few exceptions such as MPs, courts, and the news media. Generally, though, if a person or body holds personal information, they have to comply with the privacy principles. See the Privacy Act, section 2, for the full definition of “agency”.

“Personal information” is any information about an individual (a living natural person) as long as that individual can be identified.

Principle 1: Purpose of collection of personal information


Personal information must not be collected unless:
  • the collection is for a lawful purpose connected with a function or activity of the agency collecting the information; and
  • it is necessary to collect the information for that purpose.

Principle 2: Source of personal information

Personal information must be collected directly from the individual concerned.

The exceptions to this are when the agency collecting the information believes on reasonable grounds that:
  • the information is publicly available; or
  • the individual concerned authorises collection of the information from someone else; or
  • the interests of the individual concerned are not prejudiced; or
  • it is necessary for a public sector agency to collect the information to uphold or enforce the law, protect the tax base, or assist court or tribunal proceedings; or
  • complying with this principle would prejudice the purposes of collection; or
  • complying with this principle would not be reasonably practical in the particular case; or
  • the information will not be used in a form that identifies the individual; or
  • the Privacy Commissioner has authorised collection under section 54.

Principle 3: Collection of information

When an agency collects personal information directly from the individual concerned, it must take reasonable steps to ensure the individual is aware of:
  • the fact that the information is being collected;
  • the purpose;
  • the intended recipients;
  • the names and addresses of who is collecting the information and who will hold it;
  • any specific law governing provision of the information and whether provision is voluntary or mandatory;
  • the consequences if all or any part of the requested information is not provided; and
  • the individual’s rights of access to and correction of personal information.

These steps must be taken before the information is collected or, if this is not practical, as soon as possible after the information is collected.
An agency is not required to take these steps if they have already done so in relation to the same personal information, or information of the same kind, on a recent previous occasion.

It is also not necessary to comply with this principle if the agency collecting the information believes on reasonable grounds that:
  • collection is already authorised by the individual concerned; or
  • it is not prejudicing the interests of the individual concerned; or
  • it is necessary for a public sector agency to collect the information to uphold or enforce the law, protect the tax base, or assist court or tribunal proceedings; or
  • complying with this principle will prejudice the purposes of collection; or
  • complying with this principle is not reasonably practical in the particular case; or
  • the information will not be used in a form in which the individual concerned is identified.
Principle 4: Manner of collection of personal information

Personal information must not be collected by:
  • unlawful means; or
  • means that are unfair or intrude unreasonably on the personal affairs of the individual concerned.
Principle 5: Storage and security of personal information

An agency holding personal information must ensure that:
  • there are reasonable safeguards against loss, misuse or disclosure; and
  • if it is necessary to give information to another person, such as someone working on contract, everything reasonable is done to prevent unauthorised use or unauthorised disclosure of the information.
Principle 6: Access to personal information

Where personal information is held in a way that it can readily be retrieved, the individual concerned is entitled to:
  • obtain confirmation of whether the information is held; and
  • have access to information about them.
An agency may refuse to disclose personal information for a range of reasons, including that it would:
  • pose risks to New Zealand’s security or defence;
  • breach confidences with another government;
  • prevent detection of criminal offences or the right to a fair trial;
  • endanger the safety of an individual;
  • disclose a trade secret or unreasonably prejudice someone’s commercial position;
  • involve an unwarranted breach of another individual’s privacy;
  • breach confidence where the information has been gained solely for reasons to do with the individual’s employment, or to decide whether to insure the individual;
  • be contrary to the interests of an individual under the age of 16;
  • breach legal professional privilege;
  • reveal the confidential source of information provided to a Radio New Zealand or Television New Zealand journalist; or
  • constitute contempt of court or the House of Representatives.

Requests can also be refused, for example, if the agency does not hold the information or if the request is frivolous or vexatious.

Principle 7: Correction of personal information

Everyone is entitled to:
  • request correction of their personal information;
  • request that if it is not corrected, a statement is attached to the original information saying what correction was sought but not made.

If agencies have already passed on personal information that they then correct, they should inform the recipients about the correction.

Principle 8: Accuracy of personal information to be checked before use

An agency must not use or disclose personal information without taking reasonable steps to check it is accurate, complete, relevant, up to date, and not misleading.

Principle 9: Personal information not to be kept for longer than necessary

An agency holding personal information must not keep it for longer than needed for the purpose for which the agency collected it.

Principle 10: Limits on use of personal information
Personal information obtained in connection with one purpose must not be used for another.

The exceptions include situations when the agency holding personal information believes on reasonable grounds that:
  • the use is one of the purposes for which the information was collected; or
  • the use is directly related to the purpose the information was obtained for; or
  • the agency got the information from a publicly available publication; or
  • the individual concerned has authorised the use; or
  • the use is necessary for a public sector agency to collect the information to uphold or enforce the law, protect the tax base, or assist court or tribunal proceedings; or
  • the use is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to public health or safety, or the life or health of any individual; or
  • the individual concerned is not identified; or
  • the use is authorised by the Privacy Commissioner under section 54.
Principle 11: Limits on disclosure of personal information

Personal information must not be disclosed unless the agency reasonably believes that:
  • the disclosure is in connection with, or directly related to, one of the purposes for which it was obtained; or
  • the agency got the information from a publicly available publication; or
  • disclosure is to the individual concerned; or
  • disclosure is authorised by the individual concerned; or
  • it is necessary for a public sector agency to disclose the information to uphold or enforce the law, protect the tax base, or assist court or tribunal proceedings; or
  • disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to public health or safety, or the life or health of any individual; or
  • disclosure is necessary to facilitate the sale of a business as a going concern; orr
  • the information is to be used in a form in which the individual concerned is not identified; or
  • disclosure has been authorised by the Privacy Commissioner under section 54.
Principle 12: Unique identifiers

Unique identifiers – such as IRD numbers, bank customer numbers, driver’s licence and passport numbers – must not be assigned to individuals unless this is necessary for the organisation concerned to carry out its functions efficiently. The identifiers must be truly unique to each individual (except in some tax related circumstances), and the identity of individuals must be clearly established. No one is required to disclose their unique identifier unless it is for, or related to, one of the purposes for which the identifier was assigned.

The Government is not allowed to give people one personal number to use in all their dealings with government agencies.

Exceptions to the principles

Many of the principles have built-in exceptions. It’s important to read the principles together with their exceptions to see how they relate to particular circumstances. The exceptions to principle 6 are set out in sections 27-29 of the Act.

It’s up to the person wanting to claim that an exception applies to prove that the exception applies.

Section 7 of the Privacy Act states, in effect, that if another statute is contrary to the privacy principles, that other statute will “trump” the Privacy Act.

The privacy principles do not cover an individual who collects or holds personal information solely or principally for personal, family or household reasons.

This is not a detailed legal analysis. If you need more specific information, please see the Privacy Act in full, contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner using the contact details below or seek legal advice.

The Privacy Commissioner 

The current Privacy Commissioner is Marie Shroff.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is an Independent Crown Entity. It is funded by the State, but is independent of government or Ministerial control.

One of the functions of the Privacy Commissioner is investigating complaints about interferences with privacy. An interference with privacy can occur when:

(a) an agency wrongfully refuses to give an individual access to information about them, or wrongfully refuses to correct information about them, or
(b) an individual suffers some form of harm as a result of a breach of a privacy principle, rule, or a code of practice or information matching provision.

Contact us

If you have a general enquiry:

Search the website for the information you are looking for;
Free phone    0800 803 909   or   09 302 8655  
Email: enquiries@privacy.org.nz.

If you have a complaint about privacy that you have not managed to resolve with the agency, you can make a formal complaint to us. We have information about complaints to assist you and a form which you can download. You can also ring us and we will send you a form. Alternatively, write to the Privacy Commissioner at PO Box 10-094, Wellington 6143, explaining your complaint.


Health & Disability Commission

The Commissioner

The main role of the Health and Disability Commissioner is to ensure that the rights of consumers are upheld. This includes making sure that complaints about health or disability services providers are taken care of fairly and efficiently.


The Code of Rights Overview

The Code of Rights establishes the rights of consumers, and the obligations and duties of providers to comply with the Code. It is a regulation under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act.

You can view the Code of Rights at the bottom of this page.

Establishment of the Code

The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights became law on 1 July 1996. It grants a number of rights to all consumers of health and disability services in New Zealand, and places corresponding obligations on providers of those services.

Who does the Code apply to?

The Code extends to any person or organisation providing, or holding themselves out as providing, a health service to the public or to a section of the public - whether that service is paid for or not.

With regard to disability services, it extends to goods, services, and facilities provided to people with disabilities for their care or support, or to promote their independence, or for related or incidental purposes. Unlike health services, disability services do not have to be provided to the public in order to be covered by this legislation.

The Code therefore covers all registered health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, dentists etc, and in addition brings a level of accountability to all those who might be considered outside the mainstream of medical practice, eg. naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, and so on. As well as applying to individual providers, the Code also applies to hospitals and other health and disability institutions. It allows the Commissioner to enquire into systems issues across professional boundaries. It does not extend to purchasing decisions or confer entitlement to any particular service.

The onus is on providers to show that such action has been taken. The Code does not override other legislation, and nothing in the Code requires providers to act in breach of a duty or obligation imposed by any enactment, or prevents a provider doing an act authorised by another enactment.

Obligations under the Code

The obligation under the Code is to take "reasonable actions in the circumstances to give effect to the rights, and comply with the duties" in the Code.

The onus is on providers to show that such action has been taken. The Code does not override other legislation, and nothing in the Code requires providers to act in breach of a duty or obligation imposed by any enactment, or prevents a provider doing an act authorised by another enactment.


The Code of Rights is divided into 6 Clauses as follows:


Clause 1

This establishes the duties and obligations of providers to comply with the Code, to ensure they promote awareness of it to consumers and enable consumers to exercise their rights.

Clause 2

This details the ten rights of consumers and the duties of providers. (See full text below)

Right 1: the right to be treated with respect
Right 2: the right to freedom from discrimination, coercion, harassment, and exploitation
Right 3: the right to dignity and independence
Right 4: the right to services of an appropriate standard
Right 5: the right to effective communication
Right 6: the right to be fully informed
Right 7: the right to make an informed choice and give informed consent
Right 8: the right to support
Right 9: rights in respect of teaching or research
Right 10: the right to complain

Clause 3
Sets out provider compliance requirements and states that where the rights cannot be met then the onus is on the provider to show that it was reasonable in the circumstances not to have done so.

This reasonableness test will be applied and developed over time. It is expected that over time, greater compliance will be demanded of providers. This clause gives some flexibility in terms of a gradual implementation of these rights.

Clause 4
Establishes certain definitions where these are appropriate and elaborates on some of the definitions in the Act.

Clause 5
Notes that in meeting the rights no provider is required to break any other New Zealand law.

Clause 6
Ensures that all existing rights outside of the regulation still apply.


The Code of Rights 


1. Consumers have Rights and Providers have Duties:

1) Every consumer has the rights in this Code.

2) Every provider is subject to the duties in this Code.

3) Every provider must take action to -

a) Inform consumers of their rights; and

b) Enable consumers to exercise their rights.

 

2. Rights of Consumers and Duties of Providers:

The rights of consumers and the duties of providers under this Code are as follows:

RIGHT 1 - Right to be Treated with Respect

1) Every consumer has the right to be treated with respect.

2) Every consumer has the right to have his or her privacy respected.

3) Every consumer has the right to be provided with services that take into account the needs, values, and beliefs of different cultural, religious, social, and ethnic groups, including the needs, values, and beliefs of Maori.

RIGHT 2 - Right to Freedom from Discrimination, Coercion, Harassment, and Exploitation

Every consumer has the right to be free from discrimination, coercion, harassment, and sexual, financial or other exploitation.

RIGHT 3 - Right to Dignity and Independence

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of the individual.

RIGHT 4 - Right to Services of an Appropriate Standard

1) Every consumer has the right to have services provided with reasonable care and skill.

2) Every consumer has the right to have services provided that comply with legal, professional, ethical, and other relevant standards.

3) Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner consistent with his or her needs.

4) Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner that minimises the potential harm to, and optimises the quality of life of, that consumer.

5) Every consumer has the right to co-operation among providers to ensure quality and continuity of services.

RIGHT 5 - Right to Effective Communication

1) Every consumer has the right to effective communication in a form, language, and manner that enables the consumer to understand the information provided. Where necessary and reasonably practicable, this includes the right to a competent interpreter.

2) Every consumer has the right to an environment that enables both consumer and provider to communicate openly, honestly, and effectively.

RIGHT 6 - Right to be Fully Informed

1) Every consumer has the right to the information that a reasonable consumer, in that consumer's circumstances, would expect to receive, including -

a) An explanation of his or her condition; and

b) An explanation of the options available, including an assessment of the expected risks, side effects, benefits, and costs of each option; and

c) Advice of the estimated time within which the services will be provided; and

d) Notification of any proposed participation in teaching or research, including whether the research requires and has received ethical approval; and

e) Any other information required by legal, professional, ethical, and other relevant standards; and

f) The results of tests; and

g) The results of procedures.

2) Before making a choice or giving consent, every consumer has the right to the information that a reasonable consumer, in that consumer's circumstances, needs to make an informed choice or give informed consent.

3) Every consumer has the right to honest and accurate answers to questions relating to services, including questions about -

a) The identity and qualifications of the provider; and

b) The recommendation of the provider; and

c) How to obtain an opinion from another provider; and

d) The results of research.

4) Every consumer has the right to receive, on request, a written summary of information provided.

RIGHT 7 - Right to Make an Informed Choice and Give Informed Consent

1) Services may be provided to a consumer only if that consumer makes an informed choice and gives informed consent, except where any enactment, or the common law, or any other provision of this Code provides otherwise.

2) Every consumer must be presumed competent to make an informed choice and give informed consent, unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that the consumer is not competent.

3) Where a consumer has diminished competence, that consumer retains the right to make informed choices and give informed consent, to the extent appropriate to his or her level of competence.

4) Where a consumer is not competent to make an informed choice and give informed consent, and no person entitled to consent on behalf of the consumer is available, the provider may provide services where -

a) It is in the best interests of the consumer; and

b) Reasonable steps have been taken to ascertain the views of the consumer; and

c) Either, -

i. If the consumer's views have been ascertained, and having regard to those views, the provider believes, on reasonable grounds, that the provision of the services is consistent with the informed choice the consumer would make if he or she were competent; or

ii. If the consumer's views have not been ascertained, the provider takes into account the views of other suitable persons who are interested in the welfare of the consumer and available to advise the provider.

5) Every consumer may use an advance directive in accordance with the common law.

6) Where informed consent to a health care procedure is required, it must be in writing if -

a) The consumer is to participate in any research; or

b) The procedure is experimental; or

c) The consumer will be under general anaesthetic; or

d) There is a significant risk of adverse effects on the consumer.

7) Every consumer has the right to refuse services and to withdraw consent to services.

8) Every consumer has the right to express a preference as to who will provide services and have that preference met where practicable.

9) Every consumer has the right to make a decision about the return or disposal of any body parts or bodily substances removed or obtained in the course of a health care procedure.

10) No body part or bodily substance removed or obtained in the course of a health care procedure may be stored, preserved, or used otherwise than

(a) with the informed consent of the consumer; or

(b) For the purposes of research that has received the approval of an ethics committee; or

(c) For the purposes of 1 or more of the following activities, being activities that are each undertaken to assure or improve the quality of services:

(i) a professionally recognised quality assurance programme:

(ii) an external audit of services:

(iii) an external evaluation of services.

RIGHT 8 - Right to Support

Every consumer has the right to have one or more support persons of his or her choice present, except where safety may be compromised or another consumer's rights may be unreasonably infringed.

RIGHT 9 - Rights in Respect of Teaching or Research

The rights in this Code extend to those occasions when a consumer is participating in, or it is proposed that a consumer participate in, teaching or research.

RIGHT 10 - Right to Complain

1) Every consumer has the right to complain about a provider in any form appropriate to the consumer.

2) Every consumer may make a complaint to -

a) The individual or individuals who provided the services complained of; and

b) Any person authorised to receive complaints about that provider; and

c) Any other appropriate person, including -

i. An independent advocate provided under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994; and

ii. The Health and Disability Commissioner.

3) Every provider must facilitate the fair, simple, speedy, and efficient resolution of complaints.

4) Every provider must inform a consumer about progress on the consumer's complaint at intervals of not more than 1 month.

5) Every provider must comply with all the other relevant rights in this Code when dealing with complaints.

6) Every provider, unless an employee of a provider, must have a complaints procedure that ensures that -

a) The complaint is acknowledged in writing within 5 working days of receipt, unless it has been resolved to the satisfaction of the consumer within that period; and

b) The consumer is informed of any relevant internal and external complaints procedures, including the availability of -

i. Independent advocates provided under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994; and

ii. The Health and Disability Commissioner; and

c) The consumer's complaint and the actions of the provider regarding that complaint are documented; and

d) The consumer receives all information held by the provider that is or may be relevant to the complaint.

7) Within 10 working days of giving written acknowledgement of a complaint, the provider must, -

a) Decide whether the provider -

i. Accepts that the complaint is justified; or

ii. Does not accept that the complaint is justified; or

b) If it decides that more time is needed to investigate the complaint, -

i. Determine how much additional time is needed; and

ii. If that additional time is more than 20 working days, inform the consumer of that determination and of the reasons for it.

8) As soon as practicable after a provider decides whether or not it accepts that a complaint is justified, the provider must inform the consumer of -

a) The reasons for the decision; and

b) Any actions the provider proposes to take; and

c) Any appeal procedure the provider has in place.

3. Provider Compliance

A provider is not in breach of this Code if the provider has taken reasonable actions in the circumstances to give effect to the rights, and comply with the duties, in this Code.

The onus is on the provider to prove it took reasonable actions.

For the purposes of this clause, "the circumstances" means all the relevant circumstances, including the consumer's clinical circumstances and the provider's resource constraints.

4. Definitions

In this Code,

"Advance directive" means a written or oral directive-

(a) By which a consumer makes a choice about a possible future health care procedure; and

(b) That is intended to be effective only when he or she is not competent:

"Choice" means a decision-

(a) To receive services:

(b) To refuse services:

(c) To withdraw consent to services:

"Consumer" means a health consumer or a disability services consumer; and, for the purposes of rights 5, 6, 7(1), 7(7) to 7(10), and 10, includes a person entitled to give consent on behalf of that consumer:

"Discrimination" means discrimination that is unlawful by virtue of Part II of the Human Rights At 1993:

"Duties" includes duties and obligations corresponding to the rights in this Code

"Ethics committee" means an ethics committee -

(a) established by, or appointed under, an enactment; or

(b) approved by the Director-General of Health:

"Exploitation" includes any abuse of a position of trust, breach of a fiduciary duty, or exercise of undue influence:

"Optimise the quality of life" means to take a holistic view of the needs of the consumer in order to achieve the best possible outcome in the circumstances:

"Privacy" means all matters of privacy in respect of the consumer, other than matters of privacy that may be the subject of a complaint under Part VII or Part VIII of the Privacy Act 1993 or matters to which Part X of that Act relates:

"Provider" means a health care provider or disability services provider:

"Research" means health research or disability research:

"Rights" includes rights corresponding to the duties in this Code:

"Services" means health services, or disability services, or both; and includes health care procedures:

"Teaching" includes training of providers.

5. Other Enactments

Nothing in this Code shall require a provider to act in breach of any duty or obligation imposed by any enactment or prevents a provider doing an act authorised by any enactment.

6. Other Rights

An existing right is not overridden or restricted simply because the right is not included in this Code or is included only in part.


Contact

Health & Disability Commission

Freephone 0800 11 22 33      

E-mail - hdc@hdc.org.nz


NZ Relay Service:

1: Dial New Zealand Relay Service - 0800 4 713 713 (TTY) or 0800 4 715 715 (Voice)

2: Ask the Relay Assistant to call us on 09 373 1060      

3: Type or speak your message


Auckland Office

Phone 09 373 1060      

Fax 09 373 1061

By Post:

PO Box 1791, Auckland


Wellington Office

Phone 04 494 7900      

Fax 04 494 7901

By post:

PO Box 11934, Manners Street, Wellington



Office of the Ombudsman

Ombudsmen are independent Officers of Parliament who:

  • Investigate complaints about the administrative conduct of central and local government agencies* 
  • Investigate complaints about the decisions of Ministers of the Crown and central and local government agencies on requests for official information.
  • Provide information and guidance to employees who wish to report serious wrong-doing in their workplace (“whistle-blowing”) and are one of the authorities to whom serious wrong-doing can be reported. 
  • Protect and monitor implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 
"Central government agencies" include agencies (such as government departments and statutory bodies) responsible for benefit payments, housing, health, immigration, passports, accident compensation, prisons, education, taxation and child support and many others.

"Local government agencies" include agencies (such as regional, city and district councils) responsible for roads, drainage, nuisance, animal control, planning and resource and building consents.

An Ombudsman’s investigation is free and is conducted in private.

What we do

As applicable to health and disability:

Complaints about government agencies
An Ombudsman investigates complaints about the actions and decisions of central and local government agencies.  This section describes an Ombudsman's powers, the types of complaints an Ombudsman can investigate and how to complain to an Ombudsman.

Official information complaints
An Ombudsman investigates complaints about requests for official information.  This section explains what official information is, how to request it and what to do if you are unhappy with the response you have received. 

Protected disclosures ("whistle-blowing")
An Ombudsman can provide guidance to employees who wish to report, or are considering reporting, serious wrong-doing in their workplace (either public or private sector).  An Ombudsman is also one of the authorities to whom serious wrong-doing can be reported.  This section provides information on protected disclosures and an Ombudsman's functions.

Disabilities Convention 
The Ombudsmen are an independent mechanism responsible for protecting and monitoring implementation of the United nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Own motion investigations
An Ombudsman has the power to undertake "own-motion" investigations.


What agencies come under an Ombudsman's jurisdiction?

The types of agencies that come under an Ombudsman's jurisdiction include:

  • government departments including WINZ, ACC, CYFS, IRD, the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Education and the Department of Corrections (which includes the prison service);
  • city, district or regional councils;
  • school boards of trustees;
  • universities, polytechnics and other tertiary education institutions; and
  • district health boards.

Complaints

Before you make a complaint to an Ombudsman, try first to resolve it with the agency concerned through its complaints processes.

If the agency does not have a complaints process, write to the Chief Executive or head of the agency.  Set out the details of your complaint and ask that it be reviewed.

An Ombudsman may decide not to investigate your complaint until you have first tried to deal with it in this way.

Hints for resolving complaints

Focus on the main problem
Although you may be feeling frustrated, it is important that you focus on the main problem that you want to solve and don't get distracted by minor issues.  Take some time to identify the issue that you want to complain about and what should be done to fix it - perhaps jot down some notes.  Only give the agency as much detail as it needs to sort out the problem.

A letter or a phone call - which is best?
It is usually best to write a letter (or email) of complaint, especially if you are dealing with a large agency or your complaint is difficult.

However, it may be useful to phone the agency first to clarify issues, learn more about their complaint procedures or to identify the person you need to write to.  In some cases, it may turn out that your complaint can be resolved over the phone.

If you decide to telephone the agency first, it is best to speak to the person who deals with your type of complaint.  Tell them your complaint, ask them if they can help and what they intend to do.  Ask for their name and job title.  Keep notes of what was said and when you telephoned.

If you are unsure whether they have understood your complaint or you are not satisfied with the response that you have received, write a letter.  Even if you are satisfied, it might be best to confirm what was said, in writing.  Keep copies of your letters.

What to include in your complaint
Address your letter to the person who is responsible for dealing with your type of complaint, if there is one.  If you are unable to identify that person, write to the Chief Executive or head of the agency.
Set out your complaint as clearly and briefly as possible.  Stick to the main points and don't go into too much detail.  Include:
  • your name and contact details;
  • relevant dates, places and times;
  • a description of the problem, incident or decision at issue;
  • details of any phone conversations, meetings or other steps you have already taken to sort out the problem;
  • any other information you think is important; and
  • attach any relevant documents.
Tell them what you want
Having explained the problem, tell the agency what action you think should be taken to resolve it.  Avoid becoming abusive or aggressive or blaming people for the problem.  Instead, explain that you are giving the agency a chance to fix a mistake or omission.

Make sure your demands are reasonable.  If they are realistic, you are more likely to get what you ask for.

Ask for your letter to be acknowledged in writing and for the agency to give you an estimate of how long it will take to deal with your complaint.

If there is any urgency, let the agency know and explain why.

Keep records
Keep copies of all the letters that you send or receive and any other important documents or notes, such as details of phone calls.  This is helpful if you later need to make a complaint to an external complaints body, such as an Ombudsman.

Be persistent
If nothing happens, phone the agency to check on progress.  If there has been no progress, you may want to write to the agency again.

If you are unable to sort out the problem after making a reasonable effort to do so, you may want to consider contacting an Ombudsman.

Tips on making complaints to an Ombudsman

Do not delay in making your complaint as it may be difficult to investigate matters that occurred more than 12 months ago.

Provide as much relevant information as possible, including letters and documents that show you have already attempted to resolve your complaint with the agency. If you have been given a client or reference number by the agency involved, please tell us that number.

  1. Point clearly to the decision or act that you want an Ombudsman to investigate.
  2. Say what outcome you want.
  3. How to lodge your complaint

You can make your complaint by:
Letter
Fax
Email - complaint@ombudsmen.parliament.nz

If you want to talk about your complaint, or you have difficulty putting your complaint in writing, please telephone our free phone number - 0800 802 602

What happens when you make a complaint?

Your complaint will be acknowledged promptly. 

An Ombudsman will decide whether or not it can be investigated.  If your complaint cannot be investigated, we will tell you why and may direct you to other review agencies that may be able to assist. 

If your complaint can be investigated, an Ombudsman will seek information from the agency concerned about the subject matter of your complaint. We will keep you informed throughout the investigation. 

At the end of the investigation, an Ombudsman will form a preliminary view on whether the agency has acted unreasonably or unfairly. If an Ombudsman forms the preliminary view that your complaint can’t be upheld, you will have an opportunity to respond before a final decision is made. 

If an Ombudsman forms the preliminary view that your complaint is justified, the agency will be advised of the view and provided with an opportunity to respond before a final decision is made.  Where a complaint is found to be justified, an Ombudsman may recommend that the agency take action to remedy the complaint. 
Although an Ombudsman has no power to compel an agency to accept a recommendation, most recommendations are accepted. 

Many complaints are resolved without the need for a recommendation.  In some cases, we may be able to satisfactorily resolve your complaint through telephone enquiries with the agency concerned.  If it appears that we can resolve your complaint in this way, we will not usually conduct, or continue with, a formal investigation.


If you have any difficulty writing a letter, ask a friend or relative or a volunteer at your local Citizens Advice Bureau to help you.


Contact

Email - complaint@ombudsmen.parliament.nz
Complaints Free Phone: 0800 802 602      
Fax 04 471 2254

Auckland
Phone 09 379 6102      

Wellington
P O Box 10 152, Wellington 6143 
Phone 04 473 9533      

Christchurch
Phone 03 357 4555      

Ċ
Kate Johns,
Feb 20, 2012, 7:55 PM
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