Compensation and complaints in New Zealand
In New Zealand, complaints regarding quality of care are resolved
independently from claims for compensation. The New Zealand Health and
Disability Commissioner does not serve as a “gateway” to the no-fault
For thirty years, New Zealand has essentially barred medical
malpractice litigation. All patients who suffer a treatment injury are
eligible to receive government-funded compensation through the Accident
Compensation Corporation. Following reforms in 2005, the scheme is truly
“no-fault”, with no requirement to establish any error or negligence on
the part of the healthcare provider.1
Separate and independent processes are available for responding to
patients’ non-monetary interests (such as the desire for an apology,
explanation, or corrective action to prevent harm to future patients).2 In
particular, the Health and Disability Commissioner resolves complaints by
advocacy, investigation, or mediation.3
The Commissioner’s focus is on opening channels of communication
between the doctor and patient, understanding what went wrong and why, and
supporting doctors and healthcare organisations back into safe practice.
The process is confidential, though the Commissioner’s findings are widely
disseminated in an anonymized form so that lessons can be learned from the
Of course, some injured patients seek monetary and non-monetary
remedies, and these patients may chose to both lodge a complaint and file
a no-fault compensation claim.
1. Bismark MM, Paterson RJ. No-fault compensation in New Zealand:
Harmonizing Injury Compensation, Provider Accountability, And Patient
Safety. Health Affairs 2006;25(1):278-283.
2. Bismark MM, Dauer EA. Motivations for medico-legal action: lessons from
New Zealand. Journal of Legal Medicine 2006;27, Number(1):55-70.
3. Paterson RJ. The Patients' Complaints System in New Zealand. Health
Competing interests: No competing interests