Frequently Asked Questions
You may have some questions regarding making a notification (complaint) and we have endeavoured to answer these below. Please note that every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate.
Following the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the Public are links to FAQs for:
Frequently Asked Questions - mandatory provision of information to complainants and employers
On 1 November 2015 sections 145BA and 176BA of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law commenced. This means that from 1 November 2015, Councils are required to:
- notify complainants of the outcome of their complaint where it is dealt with by the Council; and
- inform employers/accreditors of any conditions that the Council imposes on a practitioner’s registration, including non-public health conditions.
The following Frequently Asked Questions document is intended for a general audience to provide an overview of the changes.
Frequently Asked Questions - Mandatory provision of information to complainants and employers
Frequently Asked Questions for the Public
Can anyone make a notification (complaint)?
Yes. Any person can make a notification (complaint). This includes:
- 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.
What can I make a notification (complaint) about?
You can notify (complain) about the clinical care and treatment, the professional conduct, or the health of a registered health practitioner. Examples of concerns that may be notified (complained) about include:
- practising unsafely
- practising while intoxicated by alcohol and / or other drugs
- a breach of confidentiality of patient information
- engaging in sexual conduct with a patient
- placing the public at risk of substantial harm in the practitioner’s practice because the practitioner is unwell. This may be a physical or mental health matter
- lack of informed consent
- communication issues
- inappropriate manner
- lack of responsiveness to patient needs
- refusal to see a patient
- a breach of infection control standards
- inadequate or inaccurate patient records
- acting in contravention of a condition or undertaking
- a criminal conviction or a criminal finding for an offence
- providing health services that are excessive, unnecessary or not reasonably required
- influencing, or attempting to influence, the conduct of another registered health practitioner that may compromise patient care
- accepting or offering a benefit for referrals or recommendations to use a health service provider
- referring a person to, or recommending another health service provider, health service or health product, if there is a financial interest, unless the interest is disclosed.
You may also refer concerns about the conduct or health of a registered student for investigation. This includes a student who:
- is unwell and may place the public at substantial risk of harm in the clinical training as part of the program of study
- has been charged with an offence, or a criminal conviction or a criminal finding for an offence
- has contravened a condition of the student's registration or an undertaking given by the student to a National Board.
What matters cannot be referred to the HPCA or a health profession Council of NSW?
Who can I make a notification (complaint) about?
- A person misrepresenting themselves as a registered health practitioner - refer to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency www.ahpra.gov.au or call 1300 419 495
- A person that is not a registered health practitioner such as a dietitian, a dental technician, optical dispenser, social worker or speech pathologist. Notifications (complaints) may be directed to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) www.hccc.nsw.gov.au or call 1800 043 159
- A health service or a business - refer to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) www.hccc.nsw.gov.au or call 1800 043 159
- The fees charged by a health service provider. Notification (complaints) relating to fees and charges may be directed to Fair Trading NSW www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au or call 13 32 20.
You can notify (complain) about a registered health practitioner or registered student practising in NSW. This includes:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners
- Chinese medicine practitioners
- Dental hygienists
- Dental prosthetists
- Dental specialists
- Dental therapists
- Oral health therapists
- Nurses (including enrolled nurses)
- Medical practitioners
- Medical radiation practitioners
- Occupational therapists
If you wish to lodge a notification (complaint) about any other health professional, or a health service such as public and private hospitals, day surgeries and medical centres, please contact the Health Care Complaints Commission
or call 1800 043 159.
How do I lodge my notification (complaint)?
Notification (complaints) must be made in writing. You can send the Health Professional Councils Authority or the relevant health Council of New South Wales a letter, email or download a notification (complaint form).
What happens after I lodge a notification (complaint)?
As soon as practicable after a notification (complaint) is made to a Council, the Council will send an acknowledgement of its receipt and notify the following organisations:
- the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC)
- the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) / the National Board for the health profession in which the health practitioner or student is registered.
Before any action is taken on a notification (complaint), a preliminary assessment is undertaken by the Council and the HCCC to agree on the course of action to be taken concerning the notification (complaint). Following this consultation, the Council or the HCCC will manage the notification (complaint).
Serious notifications (complaints) are referred to a Tribunal. This is particularly so where the matter may provide grounds for the suspension or cancellation of a health practitioner's or student's registration, if substantiated.
Will a copy of my notification (complaint) be given to the health practitioner?
In most cases yes. The relevant information from your notification (complaint) will be sent to the practitioner to seek a response. In some instances it will be decided not to notify the health practitioner of the details of the notification (complaint).
Will I be given a copy of the response from the health practitioner?
You may be advised of the response. The practitioner can opt for their response to be used for assessment purposes only in which case it will not be released to you without the consent of the health practitioner.
Can I submit an anonymous notification (complaint)?
All information you provide to the Council is treated confidentially. However in order to assess the issues raised in a notification (complaint), we may be required to seek a response from the health practitioner or student. By submitting a notification (complaint) anonymously, it may make it difficult to obtain relevant information or responses to the specific issues. You may wish to discuss this with the relevant Council prior to the lodging of a notification (complaint).
Will my identity be disclosed to other parties?
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) generally makes it unlawful for the Council to disclose information without the consent of the person about whom the information relates. However, your identity will be disclosed to the HCCC and to people who are otherwise dealing with your notification (complaint) in accordance with the National Law (NSW).
Can the Council obtain my medical records for me?
The Council cannot obtain access to your medical records on your behalf. You can seek access to your medical records yourself by making a request under privacy legislation (for information see the following links to the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner or the NSW Privacy Commissioner).
Do I have the opportunity to put my case to the Council in person?
No, all notification (complaints) must be in writing. During the course of the investigation, you may be interviewed by an HCCC investigator.
Will I be advised of the outcome?
Yes. You will be notified of the outcome of the notification (complaint) in writing shortly after the conclusion of the notifications (complaints) process.
Are there any costs associated with lodging a notification (complaint)?
There are no fees or charges involved to lodge a notification (complaint).
Can I seek financial compensation?
The Councils cannot pay you any form of financial compensation. If you wish to obtain a refund from the health provider then you can contact Fair Trading NSW www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.
Can I be sued for making a complaint?
You are protected from liability if you make a complaint or give information under the provisions of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) provided you do so in good faith.
What if I want to withdraw my notification (complaint)?
A request to withdraw a notification (complaint) must be made in writing. The Council will then decide on whether to drop the notification (complaint) or continue on if they believe the notification (complaint) raises significant issues on public health and safety. You will not be informed if the Council decides to further investigate these matters if you withdraw your notification (complaint).
What if I’m not happy about the outcome?
If you are not happy with the way your notification (complaint) has been initially assessed you can ask the HCCC for a review of the assessment decision. You must ask for a review within 28 days of being advised of the decision.
If your notification (complaint) results in an investigation by the HCCC and you are not happy with the outcome of the investigation, you can ask the HCCC for a review of the investigation outcome. You must ask for a review within 28 days of being advised of the decision.
If you are not happy with the way your notification (complaint) has been handled by the Council or by the HCCC you can make a complaint in writing to the Council or the HCCC. If you are not happy with the Council or HCCC’s response you can make a complaint to the NSW Ombudsman.