Key messages

  • The brochure outlines what the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights means for patients, consumers, family members or carers using the Victorian health system.
  • These health rights apply to all healthcare services in Victoria.
  • It explains where to go for help with complaints or feedback about a Victorian health service
  • The brochure is available in 25 community languages.
  • The rights covered relate to access, safety, respect, communication, participation, privacy and comment.

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights in Victoria brochure includes information on what it means for patients, consumers, family members or carers using the Victorian healthcare system.

These health rights apply to all healthcare services in Victoria. This includes people using public and private hospitals, GP clinics, medical specialists, aged care and disability services, mental health services, community health centres and allied health providers such as psychologists, dentists, naturopaths and occupational therapists.

This brochure explains what to expect from healthcare services in Victoria and where to go for help with concerns.

The brochure is also available in 25 community languages, an Auslan video translation and a series of audio files.

Consumers, patients and providers

Consumers are people who are current or potential users of health services, including hospital patients. This includes: children, women and men; people with a disability; people from diverse cultural backgrounds and faiths; people with varying socioeconomic status and social circumstances; and people with a variety of sexual orientations and health conditions.

The healthcare provider is the trained health professional providing healthcare. The healthcare service is the organisation responsible for providing healthcare services.

Patient rights in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights

Access: A right to access healthcare

Patients have a right to the healthcare they need. This right is supported by Medicare, which provides access to free or subsidised treatment by doctors and access to free public hospital services.

Patients have a right to be treated as their medical condition requires, regardless of their ability to pay or whether they have private insurance.

Patients have a right to high-quality healthcare that meets their health needs. The Victorian healthcare system includes a wide range of services. Getting the care they need may mean referral to a different service than the one they first visited.

Patients may choose to be a public or private patient. If they are a public patient they will not be charged for hospital or medical services. If they are a private patient they or their insurer will be charged for some services. Their health service should explain any costs or differences involved in their care if they are a private patient.

Patients may be charged a small fee for some publicly funded healthcare services such as dental services or physiotherapy.

Listen to audio presentation 

Safety: A right to receive safe and high-quality healthcare

Patients have a right to safe and high-quality care. Patients, consumers and healthcare providers are all entitled to a safe, secure and supportive healthcare environment.

Patients have a right to a high standard of safe care and treatment. Patients should let staff know if they have a concern about safety or think that a mistake might have been made.

Patients’ right to safe and high-quality care relies in part on clear communication. This means they must give their healthcare provider the information they need to treat them, and their provider must tell them what they need to know to make decisions about their care. They have a right to an accredited interpreter, if they need one, when using a publicly funded healthcare service such as a hospital or community health centre.

All healthcare services should work to continually improve their quality of care. Public health services report on this to the community through their annual quality of care report.

Listen to audio presentation 

Respect: A right to be shown respect, and to be treated with dignity and consideration

Patients have a right to be shown respect and to be treated with dignity and consideration, and without discrimination. Healthcare services should develop an environment that supports cooperation and communication between patients, consumers and staff.

Patients have a right to be treated in a way that respects their dignity. Healthcare staff also deserve to be treated with respect and consideration, and without discrimination.

Patients have a right to receive care that is responsive to their culture and beliefs such as their beliefs and practices regarding birth, illness and death, the gender of the person treating them, and their dietary requirements while in hospital.

Patients have a right to be treated without discrimination based on their race, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, carer status, disability, marital status or religious beliefs.

As far as possible, healthcare services should provide care and treatment in surroundings that allow personal privacy, for example, by using separate treatment rooms, screens or curtains.

Listen to audio presentation

Communication: A right to be informed about services, treatment, options and costs in a clear and open way

High-quality healthcare is based on open and effective two-way communication between patients and their healthcare provider. Patients have a right to be informed about services, treatment, options and costs in a way that you can understand.

Patients have a right to clear and understandable information about their healthcare and condition including treatment options, expected outcomes, possible side effects and costs. Their healthcare provider should give then the opportunity to ask questions.

If patients have concerns about the treatment options their healthcare provider has offered, they have a right to obtain a second medical opinion. Many things affect their health – their medical history, medications, complementary therapies they are taking, social circumstances and emotional wellbeing. It is important they give their healthcare provider all relevant information so they can be offered the most appropriate treatment. Patients have a right to an accredited interpreter for communication needs with their publicly funded healthcare provider. Interpreters should be provided at important points during their care such as when discussing medical history, treatments, test results, diagnoses, during admission and assessment and when they are required to give informed consent.

Patients or consumers in a hospital or other large healthcare service, may be treated by a number of people. They have a right to be kept informed about who is responsible for their care and how to contact them.

They have a right to involve a family member, carer or chosen support person to help them in discussions with their healthcare provider. This person could be a friend, family member or someone from a consumer support organisation. For example, most Victorian public hospitals have an Aboriginal liaison officer..

Listen to audio presentation

Participation: A right to be included in decisions and to make choices about your healthcare

Patients have a right to take an active role in their healthcare and to be included in decisions and choices about their care.

Patients have a right to participate as fully as they wish in decisions about their care and treatment. Their healthcare provider should give them all the information they need to make informed decisions, the opportunity to ask questions, and time to talk to their carers, family and friends before making decisions.

Patients have a right to have their family, other carers or chosen support person involved in their care. With their consent, they can also receive information and be involved in making decisions about their care with you.

Patients have a right to refuse treatment. However, there are circumstances in which they may be regarded as unable to give informed consent or to refuse treatment.

Patients have a right to appoint someone to make medical decisions for them in the event that they lose the capacity to do so. For more information, please contact the Office of the Public Advocate.

Hospital patients have a right to be fully involved in the decision about how and when they leave hospital. Before patients leave, the hospital should discuss what healthcare services they may need after they leave hospital, and refer them to the service. Patients have a right to participate in decisions about their ongoing care. Their GP should also be involved. Patients may discharge themselves against their doctor’s advice, but patients may be asked to sign a form accepting responsibility for this.

There are many opportunities to participate in the planning, design and evaluation of public healthcare services. Many organisations take into account consumers’ experiences and ideas about their service when making improvements. Patients have a right to share their views, for example, by filling in surveys, joining a community advisory committee, writing letters or telling

staff about their experience. Both negative and positive feedback is useful.

Listen to audio presentation

Privacy: A right to privacy and confidentiality of your personal information

Australian and Victorian laws protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients’ personal health and other information. Information must be collected, used, stored and shared in accordance with these laws.

Everyone involved in a patient’s treatment and care has a professional and legal duty to keep information about them confidential. Sometimes a healthcare provider needs to share information about them with others involved in their care. Healthcare providers will only share information with someone not involved in a patient’s care with the patient’s permission, or if required to by law, such as in a medical emergency. The Victorian Health Records Act 2001 sets out privacy principles with which all health services must comply.

Patients have a right to a say about what happens to their information. If they decide not to share some of their information or restrict access to their health record, this is their right, but it may affect your healthcare provider's ability to provide you with the best possible care.

Patients have a right to access their healthcare record. Patients should tell their healthcare provider if any information is incorrect, incomplete or out of date. In some cases, patients may be given only part of their record. If so, patients have the right to apply under freedom of information laws for their complete record. Patients can ask their patient representative or relevant staff member for more information or they can contact the Office of the Health Services Commissioner.

Listen to audio presentation

Comment: A right to comment on your healthcare and to have your concerns addressed

Patients have a right to comment on their care and to have their concerns addressed. Healthcare services should make information about their feedback processes easy to find.

They have a right to comment, ask questions and make complaints about their healthcare.

It is always best to try to resolve concerns with their healthcare provider first. Healthcare services want to solve problems quickly but need to know about the problem first. Try to provide feedback in a way that respects other consumers and healthcare providers.

Healthcare services record positive and negative feedback, for example, through surveys and feedback or complaints processes. Patient feedback should be used to improve services in the future.

In a hospital, if patients are unsatisfied with how their doctor or treatment team is responding to their concerns, they have a right to speak to the hospital’s patient representative or the Aboriginal liaison officer. If they are not satisfied with how their healthcare service or patient representative is responding to their concerns, they have a right to complain to the Health Services Commissioner.

Listen to audio presentation

Contact details

  • Sector Performance Quality and Rural Health Branch

    • Telephone Number:+61 3 9096 6176