What information can mortality review committees gather?
To conduct effective reviews leading to system-wide improvements, mortality review committees can gather information from a wide range of sources. Strict protections are placed on the gathering, use and viewing of this information, and committees are restricted only to collecting information that is relevant to their specific functions.
A committee may collect information via its chair or an agent of the committee, and only committee members or agents of the committee may view the information gathered.
Examples of information committees may request include:
a. patient records, clinical advice, and related information
b. agency records and related information
c. answers to questions posed by the chairperson in a notice, and that the person is able to answer
d. information that became known solely as a result of a declared quality assurance activity, within the meaning of Part 6 of the Medical Practitioners Act 1995, or a protected quality assurance activity within the meaning of section 53(1) of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.
e. Information classified as personal under the Privacy Act.
The person from whom the information is requested must take all reasonable steps to comply.
What is an agent?
The NZ Public Health and Disability Act 2000 gives mortality review committees the authority to appoint agents to collect information for them.
An agent may require any person to provide information they have that is relevant to the committee’s functions. However, an agent may only require information in relation to the committee they have been appointed to, and not in relation to any other mortality review committee unless they have also been appointed as agent of that committee.
The Mortality Review Agent Management System (MRAMS), run by the New Zealand Mortality Review Data Group at the University of Otago, maintains a public list of all of the mortality review committees agents who are empowered to collect data on behalf of the committees.
How protected is information the committee gathers?
Schedule 5 places strict statutory limits on when and how the committee can disclose information.
Section 59E of the Act provides that a person who discloses information contrary to Schedule 5 is liable to a maximum fine of $10,000. If they are a member of a registered occupational profession they are liable to any disciplinary proceedings of that profession.
Can information be disclosed?
Schedule 5 specifies the very limited circumstances in which information may be disclosed.
A member, executive officer or agent of the committee must not give information to another person, except for the purpose of carrying out the committee’s functions, or if it is in accordance with an exception stated in clause 5 of Schedule 5, or in accordance with a ministerial authority.
In certain circumstances a minister may give authority for information to be disclosed, that authority does not, of itself, create a duty to disclose that information.
The exceptions in clause 5 of Schedule 5 are:
a. the production, disclosure, or recording of information if the information does not identify, either directly or by implication, any particular individual:
b. the disclosure of information—
i. with the consent of every person who would be directly or indirectly identified by the disclosure,
ii. to the minister, or a person authorised by the minister, for the purpose of enabling the minister to decide whether or not to issue a ministerial authority,
iii. for the purposes of the prosecution of an offence against section 18(7) (disclosure of information contrary to this Schedule).
Clause 6 of Schedule 5 specifies that for the purposes of the exception in clause 5(b)(ii) the minister may only authorise the disclosure of information if the information relates to conduct that constitutes or may constitute a serious offence.
Do I have to disclose information to the committee?
Yes. You are legally required to provide information to the chair or delegated agent of the committee. This includes any information you control that is relevant to the functions of the committee.
What about the Privacy Act?
The NZ Public Health and Disability Act 2000 enables a person to provide the requested information to a committee without breaching the Privacy Act 1993 or the Health Information Privacy Code 2004.
Where do I go for more information?
If you have questions about the mortality review committees, contact the secretariat at email@example.com or phone 04 901 6040.