How do I make a complaint about my health provider?
Your first step should generally be to try and talk to your health provider about the problem. Make sure that you tell them clearly that you want to make a complaint. They must have a complaints process which they should tell you about. You can complain in person or in writing about treatment you or someone else has received. You can find some useful tips about making a complaint on the Health and Disability Commissioner website.
If your complaint does not result in a satisfactory resolution, or you are not comfortable about complaining to the health provider, you can complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner (see the next question). You could also make a complaint to the health authority that is responsible for overseeing the relevant health professional (eg the Medical Council if you have a complaint about your doctor).
Along the way, at any time that you feel like you need support, you can talk to a Health and Disability Advocate who can give you free advice.
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What does the Health and Disability Commissioner do?
The Health and Disability Commissioner’s office has been set up to protect anyone who uses health and disability services. The agency will help resolve problems between consumers and providers of health and disability services. The Health and Disability Commissioner also aims to improve the quality of health care and disability services.
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What are my rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights?
When you use any health and disability services you are covered by certain rights
- you have the right to be treated with respect, including respect for your privacy and your cultural, religious, and social background.
- you have the right to be free from discrimination, coercion, harassment or other exploitation.
- you have the right to have services provided with enough reasonable care and skill to meet all relevant standards.
- you have the right to effective communication with your health care provider; this may include an interpreter.
- you have the right to be given the correct information and honest answers to your questions so you can make an informed decision.
- you have the right to have a support person with you and the right to complain about a provider.
For a full list of your rights see the website of the Health and Disability Commissioner.
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How do I make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner?
If the issue is not satisfactorily resolved after you have complained to the health provider, or you are not comfortable with doing this, you can complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner.
You can choose to do this online (whether you are complaining about care you have received, or complaining on behalf of someone else) or by calling or writing to the Health and Disability Commissioner’s office (0800 11 22 33). Visit their website for phone and email details.
If you want help or advice about doing this, you can contact a Health and Disability Advocate.
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What happens after I make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner?
The Health and Disability Commissioner will either:
- refer you to an advocate for assistance with your complaint:
- forward your complaint to the health provider,
- refer you to another agency or
- investigate your complaint.
If the Health and Disability Commissioner decides to investigate your complaint, the parties involved will be told and the Commissioner will look at the case. Both parties will be asked to provide supporting evidence and may need to be interviewed. The Commissioner may also get advice from an independent expert.
The Commissioner may refer you to the advocacy service or to formal mediation if they think the issue can be resolved this way. Otherwise they will produce a report containing their recommendations; it is reviewed by both parties before a final version is sent out.
In general you wouldn’t expect any financial compensation as a result of your complaint. More information about the complaints process is on the Health and Disability Commissioner website.