How to make a complaint

What do I do first?

Consider ringing the service first and ask about their complaint process (how you would go about making a complaint). Avoid going into details of the complaint unless you are sure the person you are speaking to is the one who receives complaints. This contact may be the first of many you have with the service, so approach the first call as an information gathering exercise and as part of a staged process. This will help to avoid the frustrations that can arise from dealing with a number of different people in a large organisational system. Ask to speak to a senior person such as a unit manager, department head, or supervisor who has the responsibility for the person or area that you are making the complaint about. Ask if the service has a complaints section. Many agencies have internal complaint sections or specific complaints handling procedures.

Do I have to complain to the service?

You do not have to complain directly to the service. If you decide not to complain directly to the service, contact a complaint agency such as the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office or Health Consumers’ Council to discuss your concern and other options. If you decide to contact an independent complaint agency, consider calling first and discuss your complaint with an inquiry officer. The inquiry officer will tell you what you need to do to make a complaint.

Being Clear

The first step in making a complaint is to be clear about what is the basic problem – this is sometimes called identifying the “key issue”. The Health Consumers’ Council can help you identify the key issue.

Do I have to complain in writing?

Verbal complaints are easily overlooked so it is to your advantage to complain in writing. That way, someone becomes responsible for writing back to you, and your complaint is more likely to find its way to the right person or place for action. Always phone the service first to find out the name and title of the person you should write to. When submitting a complaint in writing, be firm but polite in your letter and keep your message to the point. If you do not have access to a computer, do not be put off – handwritten letters are fine.

Where can I get help?

The Health Consumers’ Council provides an advocacy service to assist health consumers in making complaints. We are an independent consumer advocate organisation and are able to support you fully through any process.

Can someone write my letter for me?

Most, if not all complaint agencies allow you to have an advocate (someone who can act on your behalf). Ask the inquiry officer when you ring how to go about using or getting an advocate. If you have difficulty writing the complaint, you can get assistance from an advocate (someone who can act on your behalf). In most cases the complaints organisation will ask for written authorisation for the advocate to act on your behalf (your advocate can write this authorisation for you – you just have to sign it).

Is there an Independent Health Complaints Office?

The Health and Disability Services Complaints Office (HaDSCO) is an independent State Government Agency (established under an Act of Parliament) providing an impartial resolution service for complaints relating to health or disability services provided in Western Australia. This service is free and available to all users and providers of health or disability services including carers. To make a complaint call 6551 7600 or 1800 813 583 and an official HaDSCO complaint form will be posted to you.

Health and Disability Services Complaints Office
Level 2, 469 Wellington Street, Perth 6000
Complaints and Enquiries line: (08) 6551 7600
Admin: (08) 6551 7620
Facsimile: (08) 6551 7630
TTY: (08) 6551 7640
Country Freecall: 1800 813 583. 
GPO Box B61 Perth WA 6000.
www.hadsco.wa.gov.au

The complaint will generally be acknowledged in writing within 14 days. Complaints will be promptly investigated, and in most circumstances a response will be provided within 30 days. More complicated complaints may require more time to investigate. HaDSCO will communicate expectations where a longer period is required.

What About the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency?

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is responsible for the registration of qualified health practitioners in Australia. AHPRA will only take complaints about health practitioners. Complaints can be made over the phone, or in writing. AHPRA encourages complaints, where possible, to be submitted in writing (by email or letter). Complaint forms are available by calling 1300 419 495 or via http://www.ahpra.gov.au/About-AHPRA/Complaints.aspx).

Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Authority
Level 1, 541 Hay Street, Subiaco WA 6008
G.P.O. Box 9958, Perth WA 6001
www.ahpra.gov.au

Can I complain to the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office and the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency?

The Health and Disability Services Complaints Office (HaDSCO) and the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) will not deal with the same complaint concurrently. They may refer cases between bodies if they feel the complaint is not within their area. You may raise a complaint with AHPRA even after the conclusion of an HaDSCO enquiry, bearing in mind the two bodies use their respective legislation to guide their investigations. If a decision has already been made by AHPRA, (even if the complaint did not go to full inquiry), HaDSCO cannot deal with the complaint.

Are there any other complaints bodies?

Criminal Matters

If your complaint about a health service provider concerns criminal offences, (eg: sexual assault or physical assault) you should consider going to the police.

Equal Opportunity Commission

If you have a complaint about treatment by a health service provider which you believe involves discrimination or harassment (on the grounds of race, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, impairment or disability, religious or political conviction) or sexual harassment you could consider contacting the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC). The EOC operates under the Equal Opportunity Act (1984). A Commissioner Officer will speak with you about concerns you have relating to your rights under equal opportunity law and will advise you about the EOC complaint process.

Equal Opportunity Commission
Level 2, Hartleys
Building, 141 St Georges Tce,
Perth, WA 6000.

Postal Address: 
PO Box 7370, Cloisters Square, Perth WA 6850. 
PH: 9216 3934. Toll-free 1800 198 149. 
http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/

How will I know what’s happening with my complaint?

You should always be told as how an agency plans to resolve your complaint. If the agency decides not to investigate, they should still contact you to explain why they decided not to follow up your complaint. Most official complaint services have a set time in which they have to reply. Find out what this is when you make the first phone call to the service.Keep up the pressure and write again if nothing happens. Follow up with a phone call if you have not had a response within several weeks.

A complaint can be made to either the health service in question or an independent complaints body – in Western Australia, for example, the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office is our statutory complaints body for health services.

What documents do I have to send?

Only include copies of documents that are relevant to the complaint. Examples of this might be health records, written statements from people who are aware of the situation, or letters about the issue. Always send photocopies. You keep the originals of any documents sent. List the documents that you have sent with your complaint at the end of your letter under the heading ‘enclosures’ (items that are enclosed with the letter).Keep a detailed record of what happens following your complaint. Write down dates of conversations, the names and positions of people you deal with and the details of what was discussed. This is especially important if you are using the telephone. Make sure you keep copies of all your notes. Get a folder or large envelope and put everything relating to the complaint in there.

Under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act you can legally apply for access to files held by a government department or service.

Will the service know I have made a complaint about them?

Independent complaint services are free and confidential, but you should be prepared for the complaint to be sent to the service/individual that you are complaining about. If you include information in the complaint that you would prefer not to be passed on, make sure the complaint organisations understands this.

Do I have to complain in a set amount of time?

Most complaint bodies require that the complaint be made within a set time limit of when the situation happened. Ask about this when you first ring.

Where can I get legal advice?

HCC host a monthly legal information session, where consumers are able to access free legal advice.  An advocate at HCC will be happy to discuss your individual case and give more information on the sessions.

Generally, complaint organisations do not provide legal advice, but can usually refer you to an organisation (such as Legal Aid or a Community Legal Centre) that does. We have a list of lawyers who specialise in medico/legal cases for your information.

Making a complaint or compliment about the Health Consumers Council WA

If your complaint is about the HCC, please complete the following form: Compliments and Complaints Form and send to info@hconc.org.au Your concerns will be addressed within 2 working days by the appropriate person in the organisation.