There are three main stages involved in the investigation of complaints
This process is different for an FOI review
Our investigation process
Step 1Complaint issue confirmation and information collection
Find out more about the first steps in the investigation process.
Step 2Analysis and review
Learn more about how information is analysed and evaluated.
Step 3Proposed decision and outcome
Find out more about the outcomes available following an investigation.
Complaint issue confirmation and information collection
Our office aims to achieve quick and meaningful resolution of complaints. This means complaints often do not need to proceed to an investigation but may be resolved through other methods, such as by making preliminary inquiries or transferring the complaint to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) or an accreditation organisation for a response.
Investigations can take about:
- three months for standard complaints
- nine months for more complex complaints.
It is important to keep these timeframes in mind because our investigators need time to thoroughly look at the issues identified for investigation.
Once we decide that a complaint should be investigated, an investigator will be assigned to manage the complaint.
The investigator will first contact the complainant to discuss the ‘complaint issues’. This is an essential part of the investigation process because we often receive complaints that are complicated and raise multiple concerns, some of which we cannot consider.
After carefully assessing the complaint, the investigator will provide the complainant with a letter explaining the specific issues that have been identified for investigation. The investigator will also provide Ahpra with written notice of the concerns raised in the complaint and explain the decision to investigate the matter.
The investigator will then collect the information needed to analyse the investigation issues.
This generally involves:
- requesting more information from the complainant (such as letters or other correspondence)
- requesting information from Ahpra (such as relevant documentation, investigation reports, meeting notes or correspondence between Ahpra and the National Boards).
The investigator will provide the complainant with an update every six weeks on the progress of the investigation (unless this is not practical or appropriate).
Analysis and review
Once the investigator has the necessary information, they will consider all the information to develop their findings on the investigation issues.
Our investigations usually consider two types of information.
Information related to the complaint
This may include:
- correspondence or conversations between the complainant and the organisation
- reports or decisions made by a National Board or an accreditation organisation.
Relevant laws, procedures and policies
This may include:
- legislation such as the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law which sets out Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditations organisations’ responsibilities
- relevant policies and procedures.
The investigator will analyse this information to consider whether the matter was handled:
- fairly and reasonably
- in line with the relevant law and applicable policies and procedures.
Some complaints to the Commissioner (but not the Ombudsman) will also be analysed to determine options for the best way to resolve the issues raised and consider whether compensation should be awarded.
Proposed decision and outcome
The investigator will come to a decision about the outcome of the complaint following careful consideration of all available information.
If multiple investigation issues have been identified, the investigator may make different decisions about each issue raised.
The investigator will present their proposed decision to the complainant, who will have two weeks to provide a response. This is an opportunity for the complainant to provide new information about their complaint or ask any questions about the proposed findings.
Complaints to the Ombudsman
For complaints made to the Ombudsman, the investigator will provide the complainant with a detailed explanation of the decision on the investigation issues.
The investigator or the Ombudsman 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, National Boards or accreditation organisations to change a decision they have made.
However, when appropriate, the Ombudsman can make formal comments or suggestions for improvement to Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditation organisations.
Complaints to the Commissioner
For complaints made to the Commissioner, the investigator will provide the complainant with a detailed explanation of their final decision.
The investigator or Commissioner can decide:
- what action should be taken to resolve the complaint
- whether compensation should be awarded for any loss or damage suffered due to a breach of privacy
- 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.
Withdrawing a complaint
Complaints can be withdrawn at any stage. We will take no further action in relation to withdrawn complaints except to advise the organisation being complaint about that it has been withdrawn or if, in exceptional circumstances, we need to take action to prevent a serious risk of harm.
Find out more
Complaint processComplaint process
Find out more about the main steps involved in our handling of complaints made to the Ombudsman and the Commissioner.
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.
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.
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.
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.