ACC 'missed an opportunity'

Through delays in changing a controversial medical privacy consent form, ACC has missed a big chance to rebuild trust and confidence after earlier privacy breaches.

That is the view of Dunedin ACC campaigner Denise Powell, who says privacy is a ''human right''. She is ''frustrated and disappointed'' by delays in changing the ACC167 consent form, which ACC claimants are required to sign.

ACC had ''absolutely missed an opportunity'' to rebuild trust among long-term claimants by not allowing more flexible ''case by case'' consents, rather than requiring blanket approval in advance for all subsequent ACC requests for medical information, with no notice to claimants.

ACC will soon begin reviewing the form, which critics say removes the privacy rights of claimants.

And this form is also being appealed to the United Nations later this year by Acclaim Otago, a claimant support organisation, which recently gained a $10,000 New Zealand Law Foundation award to prepare a report to the UN over claimed non-compliance by New Zealand with a UN Convention on rights of the disabled, including over privacy issues.

Dr Powell's name and those of about 470 Otago ACC claimants were on a list of 6725 people mistakenly emailed to Auckland resident Bronwyn Pullar in a major privacy breach in late 2011.

After this privacy breach, a high-level report - commissioned by the Privacy Commissioner - took issue with several aspects of the consent form, saying there was ''an opportunity for a better practice review''.

The review team also ''strongly'' encouraged ACC to consider ''detailed consultation'' with those affected.

ACC accepted the report's recommendations in August 2012, and ACC officials said the form would be considered during a ''three-year work programme''.

After a recent follow-up query from the ODT about the form, ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said ACC had first needed ''to draft and implement ACC privacy strategy'' and to review ACC's privacy policy.

This had been completed and a review of the form was ''scheduled to begin'' early this year.

The form needed ''some review'', but was ''a transparent way of ensuring that a client is aware of, and consents to, ACC using and disclosing their personal information to support their claim''. ACC needed to collect and use client information in order to ''process client claims'' and assess entitlements in the ''most efficient manner possible'', she said.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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