The Health & Disability Commissioner investigates complaints about the provision of health and disability services.  The Commission will investigate whether there has been a breach of a consumer’s rights under the Code of Health & Disabilities Service Consumers Rights.

If you have a complaint about the service provided by a health or disabilities service provider, it is recommended that you raise the matter directly with the service provider first to see if resolution can be reached.  To do that you should clarify your concerns and identify a solution and then communicate those to the relevant agency.  If you are able to resolve the matter with the agency, then that will be a better and quicker solution than going through a formal investigation process.

To assist you with any dealings with the health and disability service provider you can use the services of a health and disability advocate.  These are independent people who will collect information, provide you with information and provide you with support.  This is a free service. 

If you are not able to resolve matters, or if you do not wish to raise matters directly with the service provider you can raise a complaint with the Health & Disability Commissioner.  Your complaint will be reviewed and may be referred to the agency for a response.  The Commissioner’s office will be investigating whether there has been a breach of your consumer rights.

They will advise any health and disability service providers of the investigation and details of your complaint and require a response from them.  This is usually required within 15 days.  Your complaint will then be investigated and information collected.  The H&DC office will regularly update on progress.  This is usually every two months.  Once information has been collected from the people involved, the office will then usually obtain advice from an independent expert in the field. 

If the matter is suitable for resolution at a low level the office may refer that matter to advocacy for assistance and that might involve a meeting or a mediation conference with the service provider.

The Health & Disability Commission will then provide a provisional opinion and require a response to that within 15 days.  After that response has been received and considered the Commission will produce a final report.  If there have been findings of breaches the Commissioner may refer the matter to the Director of Proceedings if it is considered necessary to bring a charge before the Health & Disability Practitioners Tribunal.

There is no appeal against the Health & Disability Commissioner’s report, but complaints about the process and the way the complaint was investigated can be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman and/or the High Court.

Investigations for simple matters are often dealt with within six months, but more complicated matters can take over 18 months to complete.

Alan Knowsley

Medical Lawyer