Treatment Providers' Knowledge of the Health and Disability Commissioner's Code of Consumer Rights
Townshend, Philip L.
Sellman, J. Douglas
New Zealand Bioethics Journal 2002 June; 3(2): 16-21
The Health and Disability Commissioner's (HDC) Code of Health and Disability Services Consumer's Rights (the Code) defines in law the rights of consumers of health and disability services in New Zealand. In the first few years after publication health educators, service providers and the HDC extensively promoted the Code. Providers of health and disability services would be expected to be knowledgeable about the areas covered by the Code if it is routinely used in the development and monitoring of treatment plans. In this study knowledge of the Code was tested in a random sample of 217 clinical staff that included medical staff, psychologists and counsellors working in Alcohol and Drug Treatment (A&D) centres in New Zealand. Any response showing awareness of a right, regardless of wording, was taken as a positive response as it was the areas covered by rights rather than their actual wording that was considered to be the important knowledge for providers. The main finding of this research was that 23% of staff surveyed were aware of none of the ten rights in the Code and only 6% were aware of more than five of the ten rights. Relating these data to results from a wider sample of treatment providers raised the possibility that A&D treatment providers are slightly more aware of the content of the Code than a general sample of health and disability providers however overall awareness of the content of the Code by health providers is very low. These results imply that consumer rights issues are not prominent in the minds of providers perhaps indicating an ethical blind spot on their part. Ignorance of the content of the Code may indicate that the treatment community do not find it a useful working document or alternatively that clinicians are content to rely on their own good intentions to preserve the rights of their patients. Further research will be required to explain this lack of knowledge, however the current situation is that consumers cannot rely on clinicians being aware of the consumer's rights in health and disability services.
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