A comprehensive guide to lodging a complaint with the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in NSW

Carroll & O'Dea


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A comprehensive overview of what a health care complaint entails.
Australia Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences
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Health care is a fundamental aspect of our lives, and when issues arise with the care we receive, it is essential to address them. One effective way to voice your concerns or to address a grievance regarding unsatisfactory health care services in New South Wales (NSW), is by lodging a complaint with the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of what a health care complaint entails, the reasons you might consider making one, and the steps you should take to effectively lodge a complaint with the HCCC.

What is a health care complaint?

A health care complaint is a formal expression of dissatisfaction or concern regarding the health care services, treatments, or the conduct of health care professionals or facilities you have experienced. Your complaint can be made against any health service or provider in NSW. This includes:

  1. A health organisation – such as a public or private hospital, medical centre, radiation, or imaging facility.
  2. A registered health practitioner – such as medical practitioners, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists.
  3. Non–registered health practitioners – such as massage therapists, alternative health care providers, speech therapists, naturopaths, and counsellors.

Why would I lodge a complaint?

You might consider lodging a complaint due to:

i. The quality of care and treatment provided to you – it may be necessary to make a complaint when you believe that the care provided to you did not meet acceptable standards.

ii. Unsatisfactory or inappropriate professional conduct – if you have concerns about the behaviour or actions of a health care professional it may be prudent to make a complaint for the HCCC to investigate.

Health organisations, registered practitioners and non-registered health practitioners must operate under their relevant code of conducts and codes of practice. If you are concerned that a health organisation or health practitioner has acted or provided services in a way that contravenes their relevant code, it is important to make a complaint so that it can be investigated.

What is the role of the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC)?

The HCCC is an independent body that deals with complaints about health service providers in NSW.

Its primary role is to safeguard the public by resolving any complaint and concern about health service providers in a fair and impartial manner ensuring to maintain the integrity of the NSW health system.

The HCCC is set up under the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (NSW).

If the HCCC finds that a provider has breached the code of conduct and poses a risk to the health or safety of members of the public it can:

i. issue an order prohibiting the person from providing health services for a period or permanently.

ii. issue an order placing conditions on the provision of health services.

iii. make a public statement identifying and giving warnings or information about the health practitioner and health services provided by the health practitioner.

Steps to take when lodging a complaint with the HCCC

1. Prepare your complaint

You should gather all relevant information about the incident or your concern. This might include dates, names of the health care providers involved, your medical records, and any communication (emails, letters, etc.) that is related to your issue.

It is a good idea to attempt to resolve your issue directly with your health care provider or the service if possible. If you are unable to resolve your complaint directly, or it is inappropriate to attempt to do so, you can make your complaint direct to the HCCC.

2. Contact the HCCC

You can lodge a complaint with the HCCC:

i. Online – you can visit the HCCC website and fill out the online complaint form.

ii. By mail – you can send a written complaint by post to the HCCC office.

If you need assistance before completing your complaint you can contact the HCCC directly by telephone on 1800 043 159 for further information.

3. Provide relevant details

When lodging your complaint, you should provide as much detail as possible. Be clear and concise, outlining the incident, your concerns, and the impact it has had on you. You should include any supporting documents or evidence that you have gathered to support your complaint.

4. Await response and resolution

The HCCC will assess your complaint and may investigate. They aim to have assessed any complaint within 60 days. They will communicate with you throughout the process. It is essential to cooperate and provide any additional information if requested.

5. Resolution and outcome

The HCCC will reach a resolution based on the investigation. The HCCC will communicate their findings and any actions taken in response to your complaint. There are various ways that your complaint may be resolved depending on the outcome of the investigation.

What to expect after lodging a complaint

i. Confidentiality– the HCCC treats all complaints with strict confidentiality.

ii. Timeframe – resolving complaints can take time. The HCCC aims to provide updates during the process.

iii. Resolution – depending on the case, the resolution might involve recommendations for the health service provider to improve, disciplinary actions, or other appropriate measures.

Lodging a complaint with the HCCC is a proactive step towards ensuring quality health care services in NSW. It's crucial to express your concerns, as this not only addresses your issue but can also contribute to improvements in the NSW health care system. The HCCC plays a vital role in maintaining standards and accountability within the health care sector, safeguarding the well-being of individuals across the state.

By following the outlined steps and providing comprehensive information, individuals can effectively engage with the HCCC to address their health care-related concerns and contribute to the betterment of the health care services in NSW.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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