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Information for complainants

Page contents: Function | Key features of the OHSC process | Who can be complained about | Making a complaint | Response to your complaint | If you are not satisfied with the response | What happens next | Outcomes | Download document


In Victoria individuals have a right of access to their health information and to make complaints about health service providers. The Office of the Health Services Commissioner (OHSC) is an independent body established to receive and resolve complaints about health service providers. The OHSC also handles complaints about disclosure of health information and access to health information.

Key features of the OHSC process

  • It is impartial and confidential.
  • OHSC does not charge fees.
  • Participation in the complaints process is voluntary.
  • Complaints are resolved through co-operation.
  • HSC encourages open discussion, with all parties asked to give their point of view.
  • It can be an alternative to legal proceedings.

Who can be complained about

Anyone can complain about the care they received in Victoria. Healthcare can be provided by:

  • An individual health practitioner
    • Registered health practitioners include – doctors, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, optometrists, osteopaths, Chinese medicine practitioners, medical radiation practitioners, pharmacists, podiatrists and psychologists
    • Unregistered health practitioners include – nutritionists, masseuses, naturopaths, homeopaths, dieticians, social workers, speech pathologists

  • A health service organisation, such as a public or private hospital and medical clinics, ambulance service, health education service, pharmacy, community health service

A Complaint can also be made against any person or organisation that collects and/or handles health information.

Making a complaint

Wherever possible, try to resolve your complaint directly with the health service provider. If your complaint involves a hospital, you can contact the complaint liaison officer or patient representative.

If this does not work, you can make a written complaint to the OHSC. If you need help to put your complaint in writing, ring the OHSC telephone advice line.

Response to your complaint

Your complaint will be sent to the health services provider, asking for a response. The provider is asked to reply within two weeks but sometimes it may take longer.

The OHSC will send you a copy of the response and ask you to consider it. This may be enough to resolve the complaint for you. If so, the file will be closed, you and the provider will be notified.

If you are not satisfied with the response

The OHSC will discuss your unresolved issues with you to see if there is anything further that can be done and what your options are.

You may be asked to provide information to support your complaint. This can include reports from current treating doctors, copies of hospitals records etc.

What happens next

If your complaint remains unresolved, a decision will be made about what should happen next. This will depend on the circumstances of the case, what outcome you are seeking and what explanation the provider has given. There are three options:

  1. No further action
    The OHSC may decide that no further action is needed, and can close your complaint.
  2. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
    Complaints about registered health service providers are discussed with AHPRA. AHPRA administers 14 Health Registration Boards such as the Medical Practitioners Board, Dental Board etc (see AHPRA website for details). A complaint received at the OHSC might be referred to AHPRA for attention by the relevant Registration Board. This might happen in a case involving unprofessional conduct where the complaint is not suitable for conciliation, or where disciplinary action is sought as an outcome. In the case of an unregistered practitioner who provides a health service, the Commissioner will deal with the compliant and/or may decide to conduct an investigation.
  3. Conciliation
    If, after assessing your complaint, we decide conciliation is appropriate, we will contact you and the provider to confirm your participation. Conciliation is a good way to resolve complaints that require detailed explanations or confidential dispute resolution.

Most complaints that are unresolved after the initial assessment phase are either closed or referred for conciliation.


Making a complaint through the OHSC can achieve a number of possible outcomes. These include:

  • an explanation of what happened or more detailed information about your treatment or your medical condition,
  • an opportunity to discuss your concerns in a face-to-face meeting,
  • an apology,
  • a change to system or procedures so a similar incident does not happen again,
  • provision of remedial treatment,
  • payment of compensation.

The officer assigned to your complaint will discuss these options with you.

HSC services are free and confidential

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  Information for complainants - Office of the Health Services Commissioner

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Last updated: 15 December, 2014
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