What to do if a complaint has been made about me?
We recognise that it can be stressful when a complaint has been made about you. We encourage you to:
- seek advice from your professional association or professional indemnity insurer about the complaint and
- seek support from your general practitioner if you need it
- talk to a colleague, your family or a close friend, who can support you through the process.
Other places you can seek help:
- Doctors Health Advisory Service (DHAS): DHAS offers a 24-hour seven day a week telephone helpline for personal and confidential advice and support for practitioners and students, and also for colleagues and family members in NSW and the ACT. Ph: 02 9437 6552 (24 hours), www.dhas.org.au
- The Medical Benevolent Association of NSW (MBANSW): MBANSW provides counselling and financial assistance during crises, illness, impairment and grief, to support medical practitioners in NSW and ACT and their families and others as determined by the Council. Ph (social worker): 02 9987 0504, www.mbansw.org.au
- beyondblue: Beyondblue offers a 24-hour seven day a week telephone support service. It also has an online chat service 7 days a week from 3pm to 12am. Ph: 1300 22 4636 (24 hours), www.beyondblue.org.au
- Lifeline: Lifeline offer a 24-hour seven day a crisis support and suicide prevention telephone service. Ph:13 11 14, www.lifeline.org.au.
Get involved in the process
Your participation is important and will assist us to resolve a complaint in a fair, efficient and timely manner. We take all complaints seriously and consider them individually. We don’t always take regulatory action as a result of receiving a complaint if there are reasons not to do so. We work hard to make sure our processes are fair, and tailored to the unique circumstances of each matter.
What can I expect?
Be treated with respect
We expect all of our communication with you to be respectful.
Be kept informed
We will tell you:
- who will be managing the complaint
- the progress of the complaint
- about actions taken that affect your registration
- the outcome of the complaint
Provide additional information
We may ask you to provide additional information. You can send us any information you think is appropriate.
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has created a video resource that shows an honest account of the effect of a notification on a practitioner. The Medical Council of New South Wales and the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) are the co-regulators in NSW, however, the process of notification is similar to AHPRA's process.
The video is aimed at acknowledging what a daunting experience the process can be and encouraging practitioners to seek the support they need to be healthy at all times. It features a GP who went through a “very painful” Medical Board investigation in 2017. You can view the video on the AHPRA website, their YouTube channel, or Vimeo channel.
Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about our procedures, access to information or quality of service.
Will I get a copy of the complaint?
The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) usually sends you a copy of the complaint and asks you to respond. There are some rare exceptions when they will not tell you they have received a complaint about you. This happens if they think advising you would put your health and safety at risk (or someone else’s), or if it would prejudice an investigation, or put someone at risk of harassment or intimidation. In some uncommon circumstances, the HCCC will not tell you the identity of the person making the complaint, for example when there are privacy and confidentiality issues.
If the Council and HCCC decide to take no regulatory action in response to a complaint, we will tell the person who has made the complaint of this decision.
What are the steps?
Learn more about the complaints process.
Will I be involved in the complaint process?
What we ask of you will depend on the complaint and what the Council or the HCCC decide needs to happen. Some of the possible ways you might be involved include:
- attending an interview or counselling with the Council
- attending a health assessment with a Council appointed practitioner
- having your professional performance assessed
- attending a meeting with the person who has made the complaint if the complaint is referred to conciliation
- being interviewed by an HCCC investigator if the complaint is investigated
Will I be heard?
Yes. To start with, all our communication with you will be in writing. We will ask you to respond to the complaint so you can tell us what happened from your perspective. If the complaint is assessed as requiring investigation, a HCCC nvestigator may contact you directly. If we are handling the complaint, we may ask you to come to a meeting to discuss the matter. If there is an Inquiry or a Tribunal hearing, you will be required to attend.
How long will it take?
We or the HCCC will tell you that a complaint has been made about you as promptly as we can after receiving it. The HCCC will complete its preliminary assessment within 60 days and then consult with us on the course of action to take in response to the issues raised in the complaint and the response.
How can I find out more?
Contact the Council to find more about what is happening.
If we are handling the matter, you can call us or contact your professional indemnity insurer or legal representative and ask for an update.
If the HCCC is investigating, you can contact the HCCC investigator whose name and contact details are included in their letter.
Who will be told? When?
The National Law requires us to advise your employer and what we must disclose to them. We will tell your employer or any facility where you are accredited if:
- the Council restricts your registration in some way by imposing a condition on your registration
- the Council changes or removes an existing condition on your registration
- your registration is suspended or cancelled
Restrictions on your registration are also published on the national register of practitioners which is maintained by the Australian Health Practioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
We inform AHPRA when:
- we receive a complaint about you
- the Council or Tribunal restrict your registration in some way, so AHPRA can update the online register of practitioners
- we have finished managing the complaint, and what the outcome was.
What are the possible outcomes?
We or HCCC will write to you and tell you the outcome of the complaint. Learn more about complaint outcomes.
What will be published on the national register?
The law sets out what is published on the online register of practitioners. Details about your registration status are always published. The following outcomes are published:
- restrictions on your registration, including conditions
- if your registration is suspended
- if your registration has been cancelled
Cautions and counselling by a Council are not published on the online register.
What if I want the decision reviewed?
If you don't agree with the outcome, you have review and appeal rights. You will be provided with some information about these rights throughout the assessment process. You will also be sent a fact sheet relevant to your circumstances when you are advised of the outcome of the complaint. Your insurer, trade union or an independent lawyer may be able to assist you with advice about your individual circumstances.