You have the right to provide feedback on and complain about any aspect of your health care, and to receive a prompt response.
This section describes the importance of both positive and negative feedback. It outlines the different ways you can give feedback or make a complaint. This information is relevant whether you are treated in a public or private hospital or treatment centre, or if you see a practitioner in a private clinic.
Your feedback allows you to be a part of improving health care by reinforcing what is being done well and highlighting what can be improved. You can provide feedback in the following ways:
All health care facilities should have procedures for patients to provide feedback. Check with the nursing unit manager, cancer care coordinator, social worker, patient representative or patient advocate.
Raising the issue may mean you get a different perspective on why something occurred, and talking about it may make you feel better. You can also have another person, such as a friend or a relative, raise an issue on your behalf.
If you have a problem with a particular person, it is often best to talk to them face-to-face or on the phone, as this makes it easier for the situation to be addressed immediately. A quick conversation may help to resolve a simple misunderstanding.
However, you may prefer to write a letter, for example, if you find it difficult to discuss your concerns or feel the issue has been ignored after raising it in person. Remember that putting feedback in writing means you will have to wait for a response.
Health professionals are bound by a strict code of conduct to maintain confidentiality about any complaints you lodge.
If you feel unable to provide feedback or complain immediately, you can still raise your concerns at a later date. However, the ombudsman may not assess complaints after a certain time frame, and there are strict time limits for medical negligence complaints (see medical negligence).
To make a formal complaint, you need to contact your state or territory health ombudsman or relevant complaints commission (see list below).
If you are unable to make the complaint yourself, then a relative, friend, guardian or health professional may be able to lodge the complaint on your behalf.
Complaints should be made in writing and can often be made via an online form.
In most cases, you will be assigned a case officer, who may provide a copy of the complaint to the health care provider and ask them to give their version of events. Your case officer may also obtain your medical records or other relevant information from the health care provider, with your consent.
Once the case officer has completed their assessment, the ombudsman or commissioner decides how to manage your complaint. They may decide to refer it to mediation or conciliation, which is when the parties meet to try to agree to a resolution. Public health and safety issues are referred elsewhere within the ombudsman or commission’s office for formal investigation.
Serious cases against a practitioner may result in prosecution, and some cases can be referred to a registration board or another organisation – see information about registration boards.
|State/territory||Ombudsman or commission|
|Australian Capital Territory||ACT Human Rights Commission
02 6205 2222
|New South Wales||Health Care Complaints Commission
1800 043 159
||Health and Community Services Complaints Commission
1800 004 474
|Queensland||Office of the Health Ombudsman
|South Australia||Health and Community Services
08 8226 8666 or 1800 232 007 (toll-free country SA)
||Health Complaints Commissioner Tasmania
1800 001 170
||Office of the Health Services Commissioner
1300 582 113
||Health and Disability Services Complaints Office
08 6551 7600 or 1800 813 583 (country WA free call)
The health professionals listed in the table below are required to be registered and accredited nationally through professional registration boards. These boards are responsible for ensuring that only trained and competent health professionals practise in their profession. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) oversees the work of the registration boards.
All registration boards have a process for handling complaints. If you have an unresolved problem with a registered health professional, you should contact the relevant registration board.
Allied and complementary health professions may be self-regulated. This means practitioners are not legally required to be registered, but they can choose to join a professional association that sets education and practice standards. These practitioners may be called ‘accredited’.
If you have an issue with an unregistered practitioner, talk to them first. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, you can lodge a complaint with their professional association (if they are a member), or with the health ombudsman or complaints commission.
Health professionals have a duty to treat patients with reasonable care and skill. If you receive an injury caused by inadequate treatment or care, you may be able to claim compensation (medical negligence claim). Inadequate treatment may include failure to diagnose or treat promptly, failure to advise you of risks of procedures, or injury as a result of treatment. Medical negligence claims about cancer diagnosis and care are uncommon.
In most states and territories, the time limit for lodging a complaint is three years from the date the injury occurred. Proving negligence can be difficult – you may have to attend court, and the process can be expensive. If you think you may have a claim, contact the Law Society or Institute in your state or territory to find a lawyer who specialises in medical negligence.
Advocacy means speaking out on behalf of others to achieve positive change. Cancer advocates lobby the government and key organisations to convince them to reduce cancer risks and improve services. For more information about advocacy, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or visit cancervoicesaustralia.org.