On 1 January 2016 the new Wet kwaliteit, klachten en geschillen zorg (Healthcare Quality, Complaints and Disputes Act) entered into force.
The objective of the Act is to ensure that everyone receives “proper care”. Proper care means care of good quality and of a good level, that is in any event safe, efficient, effective and client-oriented, provided in a timely manner and geared towards the client’s real needs. The Act provides that complaints about the healthcare must be handled by a complaints officer of the healthcare provider.
Under the Act, all healthcare providers are required to provide proper care, to have a complaints procedure in place and to be affiliated with a dispute settlement authority.
To whom does the Act apply?
The Act applies to all healthcare providers: healthcare institutions as well as independent medical practitioners, such as self-employed persons. They include, for instance, nursing homes, hospitals, GPs and physiotherapists. The Act does not apply to healthcare organised by the municipality, such as child welfare and home help
Under the Act, not only the healthcare provider but also the institution’s board is responsible for proper care. They must “safely” organise the care and check how healthcare providers have functioned in the past, known as the “duty to verify” (vergewisplicht).
The Act sets out a number of new obligations regarding the handling of complaints and disputes.
- The healthcare provider must appoint an independent complaints officer, free of charge and easily accessible for clients. That complaints officer can mediate to find a solution and inform the client about the possibilities of filing a complaint. Many healthcare providers already have a complaints system or a procedure to safely report incidents. If that system works properly and complies with the new Act, the healthcare provider will not need to make any changes.
- If the client and the healthcare provider fail to reach agreement, the client can present the complaint to an independent dispute settlement authority. The Act obligates healthcare providers to be affiliated with such an authority.
- The client’s position has been strengthened. Since 1 January 2016 clients are entitled to proper information on any mistakes made in the care provided (such as a mistake during an operation). The healthcare provider must discuss the mistake with the client and record it in the client file.
- Care employees must be able to report incidents safely. Healthcare providers have until 1 July 2016 at the latest to draw up an internal procedure to ensure that employees can safely report negligence and incidents in the provision of care.
- Healthcare providers must report emergencies and all types of violence in the healthcare relationship to the Healthcare Inspectorate (IGZ).
- The dismissal of a healthcare provider on the grounds of serious poor performance must furthermore be reported to the IGZ.
The supervision by the IGZ of compliance with obligations arising for the healthcare provider from client rights is an improvement compared with the past, when there was no direct supervision of the observance of patients’ rights under medical treatment agreements.
Dates of commencement
The Healthcare Quality, Complaints and Disputes Act entered into force on 1 January 2016. To give healthcare providers the opportunity to make arrangements for certain aspects of the new Act, the following transitional periods apply.
- As from 1 July 2016 healthcare providers must have arranged that their employees can safely report negligence and incidents in the provision of care within their organisation.
- As from 1 January 2017 healthcare providers must ensure that their complaints procedure is in keeping with the new Act and that the healthcare provider is affiliated with an approved dispute settlement authority.
- As from 1 January 2017 healthcare providers must have entered into a written agreement with all the medical practitioners in their employment. That agreement must set out the standards that the medical practitioners must meet, which will allow the healthcare provider to warrant the quality of the care and proper complaints handling. The employment contract suffices for employees in salaried employment.
The Act replaces the Wet klachtrecht cliënten zorgsector (Clients’ Right of Complaint Care Sector Act) and the Kwaliteitswet zorginstellingen (Care Institutions Quality Act).
L&A advocaten will of course be pleased to draw up a complaints procedure for you or to check whether your current arrangements are in accordance with the Healthcare Quality, Complaints and Disputes Act.
For more information please contact Bartje Schaberg at Bartje.Schaberg@LenAadvocaten.nl or by telephone at 020 7608816 or 06 22 440 540.
L&A will of course keep you informed of the further developments.