Investigating complaints

Why is the complaint being investigated?

The primary objective of all investigations is the protection of the health or safety of the public. The Commission must investigate certain types of complaints. These include complaints that raise a significant issue of public health or safety, or a significant question as to the appropriate care or treatment provided to a patient. The Commission also investigates complaints, which, if substantiated, would provide grounds for disciplinary action against a health practitioner.

The Commission is committed to acting impartially and fairly towards all parties involved in the complaint.

What happens during an investigation?

During the investigation, the Commission obtains evidence from complainants and other relevant witnesses, and can require statements, information and medical records. An expert may give advice on the quality of clinical care or conduct.

Before deciding upon the outcome of an investigation, the Commission seeks submissions from the affected health provider. At the end of an investigation, a report is prepared that summarises the allegations, details the evidence gathered, and sets out the Commission’s findings. The report is usually provided to the parties to a complaint, except where the complaint is referred to the Director of Proceedings to consider prosecution.

What are the outcomes of an investigation?

The outcomes of an investigation depend on whether the complaint was about an individual practitioner or a health organisation.

Outcomes for registered health practitioners

An investigation into a registered practitioner may result in:

  • the matter being referred to the Director of Proceedings to determine whether to prosecute the practitioner where there is evidence of ‘unsatisfactory professional conduct’
  • referring the practitioner to the relevant health professional Council for their action where there is evidence of conduct or treatment falling short of ‘unsatisfactory professional conduct’
  • comments being made to the practitioner
  • no further action being taken.

Where there is evidence of possible criminal conduct, the complaint can be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider possible criminal charge(s).

Outcomes for unregistered health practitioners

 At the end of an investigation into an unregistered health practitioner the Commission may:

  • issue and publish a prohibition order or public warning, where it is found that the practitioner has breached the Code of Conduct for unregistered health practitioners and poses a risk to the health or safety of members of the public
  • make comments to the practitioner to improve future practice or treatment 
  • take no further action.

Outcomes for health organisations

If the investigation finds that a health organisation has provided inadequate care, the Commission makes comments and/or recommendations. Recommendations are made where systems can be improved for better care in future. The Commission will monitor the implementation of all recommendations.

At the end of any investigation, the Commission will write to the relevant parties advising them of the outcome of its investigation.