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Background of the Advocacy Service

Formation of the Advocacy Service

The Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service was formally established in 1996 under the Health and Disability Commissioner legislation.

The Cartwright Report

Judge Silvia Cartwright identified the need for such a service during a major independent inquiry into the treatment of patients at an Auckland hospital. The Cartwright Report, released on 5 August 1988, outlined the findings of the inquiry and made key recommendations. These included how to address the need for a focus on consumer rights and the quality of services provided to consumers.

Although the Inquiry looked specifically at carcinoma in situ treatment, as well as research that occurred at National Women's Hospital during the 1950s and up until the early 1980s, the problems identified were recognised as features of a health system in which patients were marginalised.

The Inquiry report identified the need for widespread changes to the way patients were treated and services provided, and emphasised the need for the services to have a patient- or consumer-centred approach. The focus of the service needed to shift from the practitioner/provider to the patient/consumer.

You can access a hard copy of the Inquiry Report from the public library. It is also available online at this link. 

Key recommendations

Two key recommendations were:

1)   for a Health Commissioner to promote and uphold consumer rights

2)   for advocates, who would be on the side of the consumer, to ensure that consumers' rights were upheld.

The initial focus on health was later extended to include the disability sector, and consumers using disability services.

The Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994

Consequently, the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994 was enacted. It requires the appointment of an independent statutory officer - the Director of Advocacy - to contract for the provision of a nationwide health and disability consumer advocacy service.

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