Key messages

  • Complaints about health service providers can be made on the basis of failing to provide satisfactory care, lack of information, negligence or other issues.
  • The first step should be for the consumer to approach the health provider to discuss their concerns.
  • The Health Complaints Commissioner is available when issues cannot be resolved at the health service level.

Complaints about a health service provider can be made if they have:

  • failed to provide satisfactory care
  • failed to provide enough information or denied the patient their right to choose
  • denied the patient respect, dignity or privacy, or
  • been negligent or unprofessional.

The first step is for the patient to approach their health provider and discuss their concerns. Sometimes this is difficult but the Health Complaints Commissioner can help patients and consumers with this.

If the patient or consumer is still unhappy, then they can approach the Health Complaints Commissioner to take the matter further.

Patients may bring a complaint against any health service provider

Health service providers are:

  • dentists
  • general practitioners
  • specialists
  • hospitals (public and private)
  • physiotherapists
  • occupational therapists
  • social workers in a health setting
  • nurses
  • ambulances
  • anyone else who provides a health service.

A provider named in a complaint may be any person or organisation.

Who can make a complaint

  • A patient or a consumer/user of a health service
  • a relative, friend or guardian
  • a health service provider
  • anyone with sufficient interest.

If the patient or user is unable to complain then:

The Health Complaints Commissioner, the health ombudsman, turns complaints into opportunities by using the information supplied to help improve health services in the future.

Contacting the Health Complaints Commissioner

When patients or consumers contact the Health Complaints Commissioner, an assessment officer will:

  • listen
  • give information
  • help the patient or consumer take the complaint to the service provider
  • refer the complaint to the Health Complaints Commissioner for further action if necessary
  • put the patient or consumer in touch with other people who can help if needed.

The Health Complaints Commissioner:

  • helps people make their concerns known to health services providers
  • assesses and clarifies problems in the way health services are provided
  • works formally or informally with consumers and providers of services to solve problems
  • helps to resolve complaints
  • uses information obtained and lessons learned to recommend improvements to services.

The Health Complaints Commissioner protects patients' and consumers' health rights. It is an offence to punish, either by threats, harassment, intimidation or injury, anyone who may make an approach to the commissioner.

Contact details