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Independent reviewer appointed

3 November 2000 Media Statement

Independent reviewer appointed

Health Minister Annette King today announced that Wellington Queen's Counsel Helen Cull has been appointed as the independent reviewer to review processes for reporting and investigating adverse medical incidents.

Mrs King and Alliance MP Phillida Bunkle announced on September 22 that the review would take place. It is designed to ensure that draft legislation, to improve the framework for occupational regulation of health professionals, including processes for reporting and investigation of adverse incidents, provides the public protection it is intended to provide.

Mrs King said today that Ms Cull's vast experience and expertise in medical and health care law made her an obvious choice to conduct the review.

"The Labour-Alliance Government has every confidence that her review of the draft legislation, and examination of the way agencies have responded and reacted to recent adverse medical incidents, will tell us whether we are doing all we can in terms of legislation to protect New Zealanders.

"Recent publicity surrounding adverse medical incidents has suggested concerns could have been brought to light and acted upon earlier. It is important we learn from what has happened, and ensure people have confidence in the systems we are putting in place."

Mrs King said Ms Cull would be required to report back to her by December 18.

Terms of reference

You are required to review the relevant legislation concerning the Health and Disability Commissioner, the Medical Council of New Zealand, the Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal and the ACC Medical Misadventure Unit.

Following the recent publicity of events in Northland and with reference to other relevant examples which may be brought to your attention, in order to inform the general review outlined below, you are required to examine how the agencies responded to consumer complaints, how they interacted, and whether their actions were co-ordinated and timely. It is anticipated that you will need to interview patients (with their consent) about their personal experience of the complaints system. Your review must not interfere in any way with relevant current or impending proceedings, including those of the Medical Council of New Zealand.

You should report to me by 18 December 2000 on:

(i) What lessons can be learned concerning:

1. the processes and timeliness of investigation(s) of medical practitioners undertaken by the Health and Disability Commissioner, the Medical Council of New Zealand, the Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal and ACC Medical Misadventure Unit;
2. any regulatory and institutional barriers that may exist which impede the timely identification and investigation of adverse medical outcomes by medical practitioners;
3. any regulatory and institutional barriers to information sharing and co-ordination regarding adverse medical outcomes, between the agencies identified above;
4. any improvements necessary to allow patients better to identify and access patient complaint mechanisms.

(ii) any legislative, regulatory or procedural changes which could ensure that adverse medical outcomes are identified and appropriate, timely remedial action is taken, having regard to the changes proposed in the Medical Practitioners Amendment Bill, the Health Professionals Competency Assurance Bill, and the Mortality Review proposals in the New Zealand Health and Disability Bill.

(iii) any further relevant recommendations.

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