Managing a Notification (Complaint)

Anyone can make a complaint or notification to the Council or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) about the conduct, professional performance, health or competence (fitness to practise) of registered practitioners practising, or in the case of students, undertaking clinical training, in New South Wales (NSW). This includes the person who received the treatment, a parent, guardian, carer, relative or friend of the patient, another health care provider or an employer of a registered health professional.

Under Part 8 Division 2 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) (the Law), practitioners and employers have a duty, to report notifiable conduct (s 140) to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Education providers are also required under s 143 of the Law to notify the National Agency (i.e. AHPRA) if the provider reasonably believes that a student enrolled in a program of study has a health impairment that, in the course of undertaking clinical training, may place the public at substantial risk of harm. Impairment is defined in the Law as meaning:
the person has a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence) that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect:

    • for a registered health practitioner or an applicant for registration in a health profession, the person’s capacity to practise the profession; or
    • for a student, the student’s capacity to undertake clinical training.

The Council notifies the HCCC and AHPRA as soon as practicable after it receives a complaint or notification about a registered health practitioner.

In accordance with s 145A of the Law, the Council and the HCCC consult to see if agreement can be reached on the course of action to be taken concerning the matter.

The following courses of action are available to a Council:

  • make any inquiries about the complaint the Council thinks appropriate
  • refer the complaint to the HCCC for investigation
  • refer the complaint to the Tribunal
  • refer the complaint to a Committee
  • deal with the complaint by inquiry at a meeting of the Council
  • refer the practitioner or student for a health assessment
  • refer the matter to an Impaired Registrants Panel
  • refer the professional performance of the practitioner concerned for a performance assessment
  • direct the practitioner or student concerned to attend counselling
  • refer the complaint to the HCCC for conciliation or to be dealt with under Division 9 of Part 2 of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993
  • refer the complaint to another entity
  • determine that no further action should be taken in respect of the complaint.

Health, Performance and Conduct Pathways

The Council’s role and functions, as prescribed in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) (the Law) are to act in the interests of the public by ensuring that registered practitioners are both fit to practise and to have contact with the public. The Council is therefore described as operating within a protective, as distinct from punitive jurisdiction. The Council manages a range of programs, services and procedures to achieve that goal.

Section 139 (a) of the Law provides that a person is competent to practise a health profession only if the person has sufficient physical capacity, mental capacity, knowledge and skill, including an adequate command of the English language and sufficient communication skills for the practice of the profession.

Section 144 of the Law provides the following grounds for making complaints and notifications about practitioners:

    (a) the practitioner has, either in this jurisdiction or elsewhere, been convicted of or made the subject of a criminal finding for an offence
    (b) the practitioner has been guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct
    (c) the practitioner is not competent to practise the practitioner's profession
    (d) the practitioner has a health impairment, or
    (e) the practitioner is otherwise not a suitable person to hold registration in the practitioner's profession.

Section 144A of the Law provides the following grounds for making a complaint or notification about a student:

    (a) the student has, either in this jurisdiction or elsewhere, been charged with an offence or has been convicted of or made the subject of a criminal finding for an offence, that is punishable by 12 months imprisonment or more
    (b) the student has a health impairment, or
    (c) the student has contravened a condition of registration or an undertaking given to a National Board.

Notifications and complaints are classified to the health, performance or conduct stream, depending on the nature of the matter and are managed through the corresponding pathway. Information on each pathway is accessible via the links below:

Health Pathway

Performance Pathway

Conduct Pathway