What if a complaint is made to the health care complaints commision?

Each state has established an independent statutory body to receive and respond to complaints about health care providers.

Office of Health Review: Western Australia
Health Complaints Commissioner: Tasmania
Health & Community Services Complaints Commissioner: South Australia
Health & Community Services Complaints Commission: Northern Territory
Health Quality and Complaints Commission: Queensland
Health Care Complaints Commission: New South Wales
Health Services Commission: Victoria

Each Commission has similar powers to investigate and conciliate complaints made against health care providers.  The process is free, impartial and confidential.  The parties are encouraged to have an open discussion.  This complaints process can be an alternative to litigation.  Usually the complainant will not have a legal representative.

Generally the Commission has no powers to force the parties to resolve the complaint and participation in the complaint process is voluntary. In some states, for example SA, failure to participate can attract fines.

Complaints can be made either in writing or over the telephone by anyone who has experienced a problem with their health care or by their representative or other concerned person.

Once a complaint has been made the Commission will notify the health care provider of the complaint and will usually provide them with a copy of the complaint.  The health care provider will then be asked to respond to the complaint.  The Commission may request copies of the complainant’s medical records, usually a signed consent form will be provided.  It is recommended that if a complaint is made about you that you contact your insurer and your supervisor to assist you in responding to the complaint.

Your response to a complaint should be in writing and should include details of the following:

  • an explanation of what occurred and why, including the initial condition, the treatment, and any adverse outcome
  • any investigations into the complaint
  • what can be or has been done to remedy the complaint
  • acknowledge any deficiencies in the care provided

When your response is received, the Commission will generally review the response and determine the best way to respond.  The Commission’s response may include a decision to:

  • try and resolve the complaint directly between the parties
  • refer the complaint for conciliation
  • refer the complaint to the relevant registration board or  more appropriate agency
  • take no further action