Complaints and inquiries are made to the Health Care Complaints Commission from people who are detained under the NSW Mental Health Act (i.e. people detained in hospital, or people on Community Treatment Orders and people who are forensic patients).
People who are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act can appeal to the Mental Health Review Tribunal against the decision to detain them.
If a person wants to appeal a decision that has been made by the Mental Health Review Tribunal, they can appeal to the Supreme Court or the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (for financial orders). People generally need legal assistance or advice for these matters.
People on Community Treatment Orders can seek a review with the Director of the Health Care Agency implementing the order.
The website of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal outlines the avenues for people to appeal against legal decisions or to make complaints in relation to the legal decisions to detain or treat the person involuntarily, and the avenues for complaint.
Complaints about health care and treatment
People who are detained have the same right to complain about treatment or health care as any other patient: They can complain to their doctor, or the medical superintendent, or the manager of a mental health service, or a consumer advocate or hospital patient representatives.
They also have the same right as any other person to complain to the Health Care Complaints Commission. Alternatively, a person can complain to the Commission on their behalf.
The Commission does not deal with complaints about a determination by the Mental Health Review Tribunal. This includes an order that the person can be detained in a hospital or can be involuntarily treated in the community.
If a person complains, or wishes to make a complaint, to the Commission solely on the basis that they have been detained and do not want to be, or that they are on a Community Treatment Order and do not want to be, the person can contact the Mental Health Advocacy Service or the Official Visitors to get help.
However, a person (who is subject to the Mental Health Act) can make a complaint to the Commission about:
- lack of information about their condition, treatment or treatment plan
- wrong medication for their condition
- medication causing side effects
- mistakes in medication
- lack of information about medication
- problems in communication with their treating team, doctor or case manager
- rights to have a second opinion
- lack of physical health care or access to physical health care
- issues concerning restraint or seclusion
- risk assessments
- issues of care – attitude, lack of care, delay in care
- problems with discharge planning or refusal to admit.
These complaints are assessed on the same basis as any other complaint to the Commission.
People can also complain about mental health care and treatment provided to them or a family member where the patient is not subject to a Community Treatment Order.
The Commission’s Inquiry Service can provide information, discuss strategies for resolution or how to make a complaint directly to the relevant health service provider.
The Inquiry Service can also assist with drafting a complaint to the Commission, if required.
When the Commission has received a written complaint, it will be assessed. As part of the assessment, the Commission may seek a response, may obtain an internal medical or nursing advice to make a decision how to best deal with the complaint.
Some complaints may be suitable for resolution, either through local resolution with the relevant health service provider, or through the Commission’s Resolution Service. If there appear to be significant issues of public health and safety, or a significant departure from accepted standards, the Commission can decide to formally investigate the complaint.
Contact the Commission
If you cannot resolve your concerns directly with the relevant health service provider, contact the Health Care Complaints Commission.