Find out more about the steps involved in our handling of complaints made to the Ombudsman and the Commissioner
The FOI review process is different
Steps in the complaint process
Step 1Assessing the complaint
We aim to acknowledge a complaint within 3 days and assess a complaint within 10 working days.
Step 2Investigating the complaint
We provide updates about investigations about every 6 weeks.
Step 3Resolving the complaint
We aim to finalise basic complaints within 3 months and more complex complaints within 9 months.
Assessing the complaint
Our office accepts complaints via email, post or phone.
Complaints can be made anonymously or by using a fake name (pseudonym). We also accept complaints made on a confidential basis.
We aim to acknowledge receipt of a complaint within three working days.
When we receive a complaint, we first consider whether we can look into the issue being raised. Our office assists with complaints about how the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), the National Boards and accreditation organisations, including specialist medical colleges, regulate Australia’s registered health professions. Find out more about complaints we assist with.
We may suggest that a complaint could be better addressed by another organisation and provide the complainant with the contact details of that organisation. Find out more about other health complaints.
Once we have determined that we can deal with a complaint, we carefully consider the most appropriate way to address the concerns raised. We may:
- make preliminary inquiries
- start an investigation
- transfer the complaint directly to Ahpra for a response
- attempt conciliation (in relation to privacy complaints made to the Commissioner)
- decide not to take any further action.
We aim to assess a complaint within 10 working days.
Investigating the complaint
If we decide to investigate a complaint, an investigator will be assigned to the complaint.
The investigator will write to Ahpra or the accreditation organisation and the complainant to advise them of the issues that have been identified for investigation. Ahpra or the accreditation organisation will also be asked to provide our office with information about the complaint, including any relevant documents it holds about the matter.
The investigator will review all available information and will consider whether Ahpra, a National Board or an accreditation organisation handled the matter:
- fairly and reasonably
- in line with the relevant law and applicable policies and procedures.
The investigator will discuss their proposed findings with the complainant. This is an opportunity for any final comments before the investigator makes a final decision.
We aim to finalise basic complaints within three months and more complex complaints within nine months.
We provide complainants with a progress update every six weeks unless this is not practical or appropriate.
Resolving the complaint
Complaints to the Ombudsman
For complaints made to the Ombudsman, the investigator will provide the complainant with a detailed explanation of the decision about the complaint.
Our office may:
- provide (or suggest that Ahpra, a National Board or an accreditation organisation provides) a better explanation of the decision or action being complained about
- speed up the processing of a delayed matter
- suggest that an apology be offered
- suggest that a process or policy be reviewed or changed
- suggest that a decision be reconsidered
- decide that the handling of the matter was reasonable and take no further action.
The Ombudsman does not have the power to force Ahpra, a National Board or an accreditation organisation to change a decision they have made.
However, when appropriate, the Ombudsman can make formal comments or suggestions for improvement.
Complaints to the Commissioner
For complaints made to the Commissioner, the investigator will provide the complainant with a detailed explanation of the final decision.
Our office may decide:
- what action should be taken to resolve a complaint
- whether compensation should be awarded for any loss or damage suffered due to a breach of privacy
- decide that the handling of personal information was reasonable and take no further action.
Review of the complaint assessment or outcome
Our office offers an internal review of decisions made by staff.
Applications for an internal review need to explain why the complainant is dissatisfied with the handling of their complaint or the decision made about their complaint.
If an internal review application is successful, the review will be completed by a staff member who has not previously made a decision regarding the complaint. This review will consider whether:
- the complaint was handled fairly
- all the issues raised in the complaint were appropriately addressed
- the decision reached was reasonable based on the available evidence
- the decision reached was adequately explained.
The potential outcomes of an internal review include the original decision being upheld, changed or referred to the staff member who originally had responsibility for the complaint to make further inquiries.
Withdrawing a complaint
Complaints can be withdrawn at any stage. We will take no further action in relation to withdrawn complaints except to advise Ahpra or the accreditation organisation it has been withdrawn or, in exceptional circumstances, to take action to prevent a serious risk of harm.
Investigation processInvestigation process
There are three main stages involved in the investigation of complaints to the Ombudsman and to the Commissioner.
Transferring complaintsTransferring complaints
We may decide that there is potential to resolve a complaint by transferring it to Ahpra or an accreditation organisation.
Ombudsman complaintsOmbudsman complaints
The Ombudsman can assist with complaints about how Ahpra and the National Boards have handled notification or registration matters, personal information and FOI requests. We also can also assist with concerns about how accreditation organisations (such as specialist medical colleges) have handled some matters, including the accreditation of an education provider, program of study or training site or the assessment of overseas qualified practitioners.
Commissioner complaintsCommissioner complaints
The Commissioner can assist with complaints about how Ahpra, the National Boards or accreditation organisations, including specialist medical colleges, have collected, used or disclosed personal information.
Other health complaintsOther health complaints
Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to make a health-related complaint. Find out more about how to make sure you're in the right place.
Complaints we assist withComplaints we assist with
Our office assists with complaints about how Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditation organisations regulate Australia’s registered health professions.