Legislation To Improve Safety For Health Sector Users

  • Bill English

Health Minister Bill English said legislation introduced to Parliament today should improve safety for patients and people using health services.

"The Health and Disability Services (Safety) Bill recognises that health care provided now is a different matter to when existing laws were drafted, some as long as 40 years ago.

"National standards for the delivery of health and disability services are currently being developed by the health and disability sector. These standards will be comprehensive and focus on results for the people who use services.

"Under the legislation, providers would be contracted to provide services by the Health Funding Authority (HFA) or be accredited and audited by a designated external agency.

"The changes will remove some duplication of overlapping responsibilities for safety within the health and disability sector.

"At present hospitals, rest homes, and homes for people with disabilities are subject to monitoring and audit by a number of agencies including the Ministry of Health and the HFA to ensure safe outcomes for patients and residents. This duplication is unnecessary and wasteful," said Mr English.

It is expected that the Bill will come into effect from 1 July 1999. Key points of the legislation are:

- Providers will, over time, implement new national standards
- Consumer safety will be clearly the responsibility of the provider
- The number of agencies involved in providing safety audits will be reduced
- Safety audits will be to appropriate standards rather than outdated legislation as is the case now
- Providers will be audited and monitored against the standards
- The Ministry of Health will be responsible for taking action against those providers who do not comply
- The Ministry of Health will cease to license health institutions when the new legislation comes into effect
- Outdated safety legislation will be revoked.

The new legislation will revoke the Hospitals Act 1957, the Hospitals Regulations 1993, the Old People's Homes Regulations 1987, the Obstetric Regulations 1986, and sections 18-22A of the Disabled Person's Community Welfare Act 1975.