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Changes will ensure fair deal for ACC claimants

18 October 2002 Media Statement

Changes will ensure fair deal for ACC claimants

Recent legislative changes and a number of other initiatives will ensure that ACC’s assessment of claimants is fair and independent, ACC Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

Ms Dyson said the Injury Prevention Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, which came into effect in April 2002, went a significant way to addressing past concerns about ACC’s assessment processes.

“The new legislation means that rehabilitation now has to consider the whole person, including their health, social and vocational needs, as well as treatment for their injury.

“It also means that claimants’ health, not just their injury, must be considered when assessing their capacity for work. People must be assessed as being able to work for 35 hours a week before they lose earnings related compensation, not 30 hours as in the past.

“In addition, the ‘hierachy of considerations’ for vocational rehabilitation has been removed. This means that all options for a successful return to work must be considered, including retraining.”

Ruth Dyson said a number of other initiatives were also underway, including a review of ACC‘s case management processes by the Auditor General, distribution of draft guidelines by the Medical Council for doctors employed by a third party, and development of a Code of ACC Claimants’ Rights.

“The Auditor General is beginning a study to review the effectiveness and efficiency of ACC’s case management processes and procedures. The review includes looking at ACC’s rehabilitation policy and practice, and dispute resolution processes.

“The Medical Council is currently distributing draft guidelines for doctors who are employed by a third party - including ACC - to perform medical assessments of patients. The guidelines outline the professional standard of care expected, and specify that ‘a doctor must not allow the financial incentives provided by a third party to influence the medical assessment of the patient, or his or her medical opinion and recommendations’.

“The Code of ACC Claimants’ Rights is also due to be released early next year, after extensive public consultation. It outlines eight claimants’ rights, including the right to be treated with dignity and respect and have their views considered, and the right to be treated fairly.

“The code sets out a detailed complaints procedure and series of remedies following any breach.”

Ruth Dyson said the latest Ombudsmen’s Report to a number of concerns about the relationship between ACC and medical practitioners.

“I am taking these concerns seriously, and have scheduled a meeting with the Ombudsman to discuss them.”

Ms Dyson said that New Zealand’s comprehensive no-fault ACC system was the envy of many countries, and it was vital that its integrity was preserved.

“We are committed to provide a system that has integrity, both in practice and in perception, and that offers real compensation and rehabilitation to people affected by injury.

“Recent changes in legislation go a long way to addressing past concerns, and any recommendations from the Auditor General, Medical Council and Ombudsman will be acted on. I will be working closely with ACC chief executive Garry Wilson and board chairman David Caygill to ensure that ACC claimants get a fair deal.”


ENDS

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