Last updated 20 January 2017

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights sets out consumers’ rights in terms of healthcare, which include the right to access safe and high-quality care, respect, communication, participation, privacy and the right to comment on the care received.

When people are dissatisfied with their healthcare, it can have a profound emotional and physical impact on their lives. The healthcare system has a structured system for handling complaints, so people should be encouraged to pursue and resolve their complaints.

The Office of the Health Ombudsman provides guidance for talking to health service providers before making a complaint.

Making a complaint

In Queensland, all complaints about health practitioners should be made to the Office of the Health Ombudsman. The other important organisation is the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which regulates 14 health professions with nationally consistent laws and supports the governing board of each profession, whose role is to protect the public and set standards of professional conduct.

The Health Ombudsman will manage the most serious complaints relating to the health, conduct and performance of health practitioners, and may refer other complaints to AHPRA and the national boards.

Where a complaint about the provision of health care also involves personal injuries that might eventuate in legal action, strict time limits apply to the notification of an intention to make a claim (see the Accidents and Injury chapter). If these time limits are not met, the complainant may lose the right to sue the practitioner.

Complaints to the Health Ombudsman

The Health Ombudsman can take a complaint about any health service provided by any health service provider anywhere in Queensland. Complaints can be made about unregistered practitioners and about organisations such as hospitals.

More information about the complaints process can be found on the Health Ombudsman’s website. It lists that complaints may be about:

  • diagnosis, treatment or care
  • sharing information without permission
  • inappropriate behaviour by a provider
  • the quality of the health service provided
  • how a provider has dealt with a complaint.

The Health Ombudsman can decide what action to take in relation to a complaint. It can:

  • assess a complaint
  • facilitate local resolution of the complaint
  • take immediate action
  • investigate the complaint
  • refer the complaint for possible referral to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • conciliate the complaint
  • carry out an inquiry.

The Health Ombudsman can decide to take no further action if:

  • the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, trivial or not made in good faith
  • the complaint lacks substance
  • the complainant fails to cooperate with the Health Ombudsman or provide information requested
  • it is more than two years since the matter arose and the complainant became aware of the matter.

Access to health records

Patients may seek access to their medical records. A patient does not have a right to know the contents of clinical notes made by a medical practitioner, but could negotiate for access to them. Patients have a level of ownership over X-rays they have paid for directly.