Review Of Health And Disability Service Consumers Rights

The Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) is carrying out a review of the Code of Health and Disability Service Consumers’ Rights (Code) and the Health and Disability Commissioner Act (Act).  Public consultation on the review is open until 31 July 2024.

The HDC is required to review the Act and Code every five years.  The Code has a broad scope: it provides for rights that apply in respect of all consumers of health and disability services, and imposes duties on healthcare and disability service providers and practitioners of all kinds.  People and businesses affected by the Code are encouraged to have their say.    

In this review round the HDC is calling for submissions on four topics of particular interest:

  • Supporting better and equitable complaint resolution
  • Making the Act and the Code more effective for, and responsive to the needs of, Māori
  • Making the Act and the Code work better for tāngata whaikaha - disabled people
  • Considering options for a right of appeal of HDC decisions.

Calls for an appeal right have received special focus in recent years, with a petition in 2020 resulting in debate about the matter before Parliament's Health Committee.  No appeal is currently available from an HDC decision, which arguably creates a barrier to justice - particularly for complainants who have few other legal options.  The Health Committee, following the petition above, indicated that the HDC should use this review to explore the possibility of a right to appeal.

It is worth noting that previous reviews have not ultimately resulted in significant amendments to the Act or the Code. Additionally, the volume of complaints to the HDC has risen significantly in recent years and the HDC has been open about the serious pressure it is already under to meet its existing workload.  An increasingly stretched health system might have concerns about the loss of finality to HDC investigations, which can be intensive to respond to and sometimes take years to conclude.

If you have any questions about the Code, or if you would like any assistance with preparing a submission on the current review, please get in touch with one of the authors.