Allied Health Services

8 March 2005

Angela Crawford, Standards New Zealand (SNZ) project manager discusses the development of a new healthcare Standard.

Standards New Zealand (SNZ), the National Standards development body, is currently working with allied health professionals, consumer representatives and ACC to develop a Standard for allied health services providers. 

Entitled Allied Health Services Sector Standard (NZS 8171:2005) the draft Standard will be available for public comment until 23 March 2005 with publication scheduled for 30 June 2005.

The origins of the Standard lie in the passing of the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act in 2001.  This led the Ministry of Health to fund the independent development of NZS 8134 Health and Disability Sector Standards, NZS 8141 Restraint Minimization and Safe Practice, NZS 8142 Infection Control, and NZS 8143 National Mental Health Sector Standard.  The overarching goal of these Standards is to bring sector-wide improvement, to establish consistently safe and reasonable levels of care for consumers and provide a framework for the continuous development of quality improvement systems across the health sector. 

In many instances allied health services, departments, teams and individual practices have sat outside these arrangements and may not have been directly audited against the Health and Disability Sector Standards. The assessment of current Standards is (appropriately) directed towards continuums of care for the consumer, yet do not always provide individual professions or groups of professions the ability to assess their service delivery against a consistent (national) Standard.

In addition to the certification requirements under the Act, over time other standards have been developed for use in the health and disability sector by allied health professions.  These include the New Zealand Physiotherapy Accreditation Scheme (NZPAS) Standards to accredit physiotherapy services in District Health Boards (DHB’s) and private physiotherapy practices.   

While ACC endorsed both of these standards, the development and use of these standards in the Endorsed Provider Network (EPN) Physiotherapy Services contract, highlighted to ACC that the current system allowed for multiple standards to be developed and used outside of any framework.

As ACC is a major funder of allied health services across New Zealand and wanted to ensure consistency in terms of safety and quality, it contracted SNZ to develop a national Standard for allied health services and an audit workbook tool to be used by providers and accreditation bodies to prepare for and to audit against the Standard. 

NZS 8171 will align with the requirements of NZS 8134 Health and Disability Sector Standards and is being developed to focus on the special needs of consumers of services provided by allied health professionals in both public and private health and disability settings.

The Standard has been designed to establish consistent, safe and reasonable levels of care for consumers of services provided by allied health services in New Zealand. It also provides a framework for the continuous improvement of these services.  It will be used alongside professional codes and guidelines recognized by professional bodies.

Allied health service providers may apply the Standard voluntarily.  Compliance would be demonstrated through an audit provided by an agency designated under the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001, known as Designated Audit Agencies (DAAs).  DAAs and any Conformity Assessment Body that wish to audit against the Standards, when required for ACC contracts, will need to meet ACC’s auditing requirements. This process allows for consistency across certification agencies.
While this Standard will not be mandatory, its implementation will assist providers in meeting the requirements of legislation, funders and certification frameworks.

Once developed, ACC will endorse the Allied Health Services Sector Standard as meeting the accreditation criteria to access the EPN Physiotherapy Services Contract.

In addition to the Allied Health Services Sector Standard, two audit workbooks - one with sector solutions specifically for physiotherapists and one for chiropractors will be developed.  As other allied health groups wish to become accredited against this Standards, audit workbooks may be developed to meet this need.