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Independent medical assessments must be a top priority

9 September 2012

Truly independent medical assessments must be a top priority for new ACC Board

The newly constituted ACC Board needs to demonstrate its commitment to culture change in the organisation by immediately changing the way it commissions the services of specialist medical assessors, Green Party ACC spokesperson Kevin Hague said today.

Melanie Read's 60 Minutes story, which screened earlier this evening, has revealed to the public what ACC advocates, long term claimants, and the Green Party have known for some time: that ACC is selectively contracting favoured medical assessors who deliver the assessments that ACC needs to end the entitlements of long-term claimants.

"There is no doubt that ACC has a standard practice of using specialist medical assessors who are likely to make an assessment favourable to ACC,” said Mr Hague.

“The many claimants' stories I have on file show, in particular, it is common for ACC medical assessors to have views which are unusual in their specialty, and who are willing to offer opinions outside of their recognized scope of practice.

“Dr Du Plessis, who was interviewed in Melanie Reid's story is far from unique.

“This is not a new problem. The review of ACC claims management undertaken by Judge Trapski in the wake of the scandal in which Dr. Laurie Gluckman was used by ACC to give opinions in ACC's favour, recommended in 1994 that specialist medical assessments should be genuinely independent of both the claimants and ACC itself.

"It is scandalous that ACC is still engaging in these unethical practices. It is yet another illustration of the sick culture of disentitlement that has taken hold of the organisation,” said Mr Hague.

“It will be an important test of the Minister and the new Board whether urgent action is now taken to introduce truly independent assessments.

"The Green Party has suggested several ways of doing this to the Minister. One is to engage with the specialists' professional colleges to have them appoint medical assessors. Another is simply to extend the contracts ACC already has with District Health Boards so that DHB specialists make the assessments,” said Mr Hague.

Mr Hague has also raised with the Minister ACC's intention to now exercise greater control of the clinical "gateway" into the scheme.

"ACC is now extending the methods they have used to 'exit' long term claimants to the processes by which accident victims are referred into the scheme by general practitioners. The Minister has indicated that our grave concern about these practices will be considered by the new Board. This can't come soon enough,” said Mr Hague.


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