Concerned about your health care?

If you are concerned about a health service provided to you, talk to your provider as soon as possible. Often this is the fastest and most effective way of resolving your concerns.

Complaints are often the result of poor communication between the patient and their health service provider. We recommend that you raise your concerns directly with the provider. In most cases, they will try to resolve them. 

We have summarised some tips on how to resolve your concerns directly with your provider. If you are not satisfied with the provider’s response, you should contact the Inquiry Service of the Health Care Complaints Commission on (02) 9219 7444 or toll free on 1800 043 159. If your complaint is about sexual or physical assault or relates to the immediate health or safety of a personyourself or another person, you should contact the Commission without delayimmediately

What is the Health Care Complaints Commission?

The Commission is an independent body that deals with complaints about health services provided in NSW. The Commission is impartial and acts to protect the public health and safety. The powers of the Commission are set out in the Health Care Complaints Act 1993.

Who can make a complaint?

Any person can make a complaint, including:

  • the patient who received the health service
  • a parent or guardian
  • a relative, friend or representative chosen by the person
  • a health service provider, or
  • any other concerned person.

Who can I complain about?

The Commission deals with complaints about any health services provided in NSW. Examples are complaints about:

  • any registered practitioner, such as doctors, nurses and dentists
  • any other health practitioner, such as massage therapists, naturopaths, and psychotherapists
  • any health service organisation, such as public and private hospitals, and day surgeries and medical centres.

What can I complain about?

The Commission deals with complaints about:

  • the clinical management, care and treatment received
  • the professional conduct of the health practitioner
  • risks to the health or safety of the public.

The Commission does not have the power to:

  • direct a doctor or health service to provide a specific service
  • award damages or compensation, or order a refund.

How can I make a complaint?

Your complaint to the Commission must be in writing. You can lodge your complaint online, or you can simply write a letter or an email.

Before you write your complaint, you may wish to contact the Commission’s Inquiry Service on (02) 9219 7444 or toll free on 1800 043 159 to discuss your concerns. Sometimes there are more suitable and faster ways to resolve your concerns than lodging a formal complaint. The Inquiry Service staff will advise you how to best address your concerns.

If you have difficulties writing your complaint, you can request help from the Inquiry Service staff. The Commission uses interpreting services to assist people whose first language is not English. If you need an interpreter, please contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 and ask to be connected to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

What information should I include in a complaint?

  • Your complaint should include what actually happened, where and when the event occurred, and who was involved
  • Include information about any actions you have already taken to resolve your concerns
  • State what outcome you seek from making a complaint
  • Attach any additional information and copies of other relevant documents to the complaint
  • If you complain on behalf of another person, you should get their consent, if possible, so that the Commission can obtain their health records and can also release information about the complaint to you.

What happens next?

  • When the Commission receives your complaint, it will be assessed.
  • Sometimes, the information in the complaint is sufficient and there is no need for the Commission to contact the health service provider. 
  • Usually, the Commission will provide a copy of your complaint to the health service provider.
  • If necessary, the Commission can obtain other relevant information, such as medical records.
  • The Commission has 60 days to assess your complaint. If your complaint is about a registered health practitioner, such as a doctor or nurse, the Commission must consult with the relevant health professional Council before making a final decision

What are the possible outcomes?

When the Commission has assessed all relevant information it decides how to best manage your complaint. It has several options, including to:

  • investigate, if it raises serious issues of public health or safety, or could lead to disciplinary action against a practitioner
  • refer it to the relevant professional Council / National Board
  • refer it to another body that is more appropriate to deal with the complaint
  • refer it to the Commission’s Resolution Service
  • refer it back to the public health organisation complained about for local resolution
  • discontinue the complaint (take no further action).

All the parties involved will be notified in writing of the assessment decision within 14 days of the decision being made.