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Remuneration and reimbursement of health consumers

HCNSW position statement

health consumers representativesHealth Consumers NSW is the peak organisation representing the interests of health consumers in NSW. Since 2011 Health Consumers NSW has supported consumers, carers and experienced consumer representatives in their work in partnering with health services in NSW.

Health Consumers NSW defines “health consumers” as: people who use, or are potential users, of health services including their family and carers. Consumers may participate as individuals, groups, organisations of consumers, consumer representatives or communities.

Consumer-centred care and consumer engagement are supported by the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, which acknowledges consumers have the right to have our say and be heard; to be engaged in the decisions about our individual healthcare; and in health policy development and service planning, implementation and evaluation.

Health Consumers NSW defines health consumer representatives as: a health consumer who has taken up a specific role to provide advice on behalf of consumers, with the ultimate aim of improving health care. A consumer representative is often a consumer member of a committee, project or event who voices consumer perspectives and takes part in decision making on behalf of consumers. Some health organisations use the term ‘consumer advisor’, ‘consumer consultant’ or another term to refer to health consumers in these roles.

In order to gain the maximum benefits of consumer engagement at a strategic level, health services are likely to seek consumer representatives who have:

  • knowledge of the health care system e.g. effective models of care, up-to-date evidence, what other services are doing, state and national reforms, etc.
  • exemplary communication skills
  • experience as consumer representatives
  • connections to broader consumer and community networks, in order to share current users’ experiences, wider than just their own personal experience.

Health services may also seek input from consumers and carers in ways which aren’t as formal or ongoing as high-level committees, such as focus groups and reviewing patient information.

Consumer remuneration and reimbursement

Health Consumers NSW recommends that consumers invited to engage with health services should be remunerated for their contribution and reimbursed for expenses. At the very least consumers should not be out of pocket for their involvement.

The Health Consumers NSW recommended payment rates for health consumers in NSW have been based on Classification and Remuneration Framework for NSW Government Boards and Committees[1]. Health Consumers NSW has reviewed this rate, with reference to consumer remuneration and policies in other states and at the federal level.

Health Consumers NSW recommends the following 2018-19 payment rates for remuneration of health consumer representatives in NSW engaging with health services:

Consumer representatives on ongoing, regular committees, such as safety and quality committees, consumer advisory committees, councils or Boards.

$196.47 per meeting 4 hours and under *

$392.93 per meeting 4 hours and over *

(*includes pre-reading and travel time)

Consumers engaged in less formal ways eg. focus groups, reviewing patient information brochures.

$42.03 per hour including preparation time

These rates should be increased by 2.5 percent annually.

Consumers should also be reimbursed for any costs related to their engagement (such as):

  • parking
  • travel expenses
  • printing costs
  • childcare
  • respite care

Fees and reimbursements should also be paid when:

  • consumers incur costs to attend meetings that are subsequently postponed or cancelled (such as costs involved in arranging respite or child care).
  • consumers arrive at the designated meeting place and have not been adequately informed of the postponement, cancellation, or change of location of the meeting.

Good practice

  • Payment or reimbursement arrangements need to be in place and explained to consumers prior to the beginning of their participation. This information needs to include the name and contact details of the staff member allocated to this task.
  • That all consumers are reimbursed at the same rate for the same tasks and contribution across a health service.
  • Some consumers may prefer not to be paid or reimbursed; instead they may request a donation be made to a charity of their choice.
  • It may be important for some consumers to receive their reimbursement for travel expenses prior to attending the meeting or activity, such as a cab-charge. It is best to discuss this with them in advance.
  • Payment and reimbursement needs to be made promptly. They should not have to follow up with the organisation on their outstanding reimbursement and payment.

[1] A 2.5% annual increase has been applied to the amounts in this framework.