Responding to the Commission

Where the Commission seeks a response it will ask you to address the significant issues raised by the complainant. Copies of the response are provided to the person who made the complaint unless the health service provider has expressly asked the Commission to use their response for assessment purposes only.

In many cases, less serious complaints can be successfully resolved with a response from the health service provider that acknowledges the complainant’s concerns and provides a clear explanation for the issues that have been raised.


The Commission is an exempt body under the Health Records Information and Privacy Act 2002. This means that health service providers are allowed to provide private health information to the Commission if they are satisfied that the Commission needs this information to manage a complaint.

Under Section 21A or 34A of the Health Care Complaints Act, the Commission can require any person to provide information and/or records which it considers relevant for the assessment or investigation of a complaint. If you are concerned about releasing sensitive information to the Commission you can contact the officer who may issue you with a Notice to Produce under the relevant section.


The following are guidelines only. Health practitioners may wish to seek advice from their insurer, employer, legal representative or professional association when responding to a complaint.

  • Timeliness – the Commission will provide a time frame for you to provide your response. Meeting this timeframe assists in meeting the statutory period of 60 days to finalise the assessment of a complaint. If meeting the timeframe will be difficult due to extenuating circumstances you should contact your nominated officer at the Commission to discuss this immediately.
  • Have you responded to the key issues raised in the complaint? Addressing the key concerns is important, bearing in mind that responses should be proportionate to the issues raised. The more serious the allegations, the more detailed the response should be. Include references to medical records or other records that support the response. Consider using a timeline when dealing with complex information.
  • Has this complaint been raised with you directly prior to the complaint being lodged with the Commission? If the complainant raised the issues with you before the complaint was lodged with the Commission provide any information about previous attempts you may have made to resolve the concerns.
  • Have the complaint issues been investigated during a work based or other external review or investigation, either in progress or completed? If so, attach the details or note when they will be available and advise whether an Open Disclosure has been made.
  • Has there, or will there be any action taken as a result of the complaint? Complaints can be a valuable learning opportunity for health practitioners and health organisations. If the complaint has, or will lead to, further education or changes to practices, systems or processes include this information.
  • Check the facts – ensure dates, times and details are accurate. Ensure spelling, particularly of names, is correct.
  • Read your response, imagining that you are the complainant receiving it. It is advisable to consider your personal reaction and to try not to be defensive. Use an empathetic tone, acknowledge the distress of the complainant and where accounts differ, provide clarification without dismissing what the complainant has said. Remember that the complainant will be provided with a copy of your response unless you clearly state that the response is to be used for the Commission’s assessment purposes only.
Still need more information

If you would like to speak to someone at the Commission for more information before you lodge a written complaint you can contact the Inquiry Line during business hours, Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm on 1800 043 159 or submit an online inquiry.

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