Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
 

Further information

We understand that making a complaint or raising a concern can be stressful. To help you we have published a list of support services for practitioners and the public and details of where you can find further information.

Frequently asked questions

The following frequently asked questions (FAQ) answer common queries that you might have about making a complaint or raising a concern about a registered health practitioner. If this information does not provide you with what you are looking for, please refer to our guides and fact sheets or contact us on 1300 419 495

Are you looking for general information? If yes, this FAQ is for you

AHPRA and the National Boards work in close partnership to regulate Australia’s registered health practitioners in a scheme called the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.

National Boards and AHPRA have different roles under the law but share the same objectives, including the protection of the public by ensuring that only health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified to practise in a competent and ethical manner are registered.

The National Boards are the decision-makers for complaints or concerns about registered health practitioners. AHPRA supports the National Boards by performing all the operational and administrative functions of the scheme.

This means that when a person makes a complaint, they deliver their complaint to AHPRA, who will collect all relevant information and give the complaint to the National Board to assess. AHPRA will then manage the complaint at the National Board’s direction.

For example, AHPRA will receive the complaint and bring it to the National Board’s attention. If the National Board decides to investigate the practitioner, it will direct AHPRA to conduct the investigation and will give direction about how the investigation should take place. At the end of the investigation, AHPRA will bring the matter back to the National Board who will decide what action to take. AHPRA will then give effect to this decision.

This diagram below shows the relationships between AHPRA, the National and Regional Boards and Committees. 

    National Boards    
       
           
 National Board Committees     State/Territory Regional Boards
   
         
       State/Territory Regional Committees 
     
         
 

  Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency 

   
   

Anyone can make a complaint or raise a concern to AHPRA about a registered health practitioner. We will consider the information presented by the complainant (notifier) and usually ask the practitioner concerned to provide a response. The relevant Board will then assess the information and make a decision on whether it needs to take regulatory action, whether it needs to investigate further or whether no further action is needed.

The timeframe for each complaint will vary and can depend on factors such as the issues raised in the complaint, the complexity of the matter, what evidence or information is available or must be collected, whether an expert opinion is needed and whether there are other agencies involved.

The first stages of a complaint can take up to 90 days before the National Board makes an initial decision. If further investigation is needed and the matter is complex, it can take more than 12 months.

See information on other agencies that consider complaints about healthcare and services under health complaints entities in each state and territory.

If you are seeking compensation, treatment advice or an apology, please contact your local health complaints entity.

If a National Board, panel or tribunal decides to take action about a health practitioner’s or student’s registration, AHPRA checks that the health practitioner or student meets these obligations.

AHPRA does this by monitoring the practitioner or student over the relevant period decided by the National Board, panel or tribunal.

For example, if a National Board sets a condition that a health practitioner complete education to improve their skills, the practitioner must:

  • complete the education
  • complete the education in the set timeframe, and
  • provide proof of completion of the education.

AHPRA receives information from third parties about the restrictions or requirements on the health practitioner’s registration and assesses whether the practitioner is doing what they are meant to.

The National Board will then make a decision on whether to lift the restrictions or remove the requirements in place. If a practitioner is found to be non-compliant, the National Board may consider taking further action, including disciplinary action.

Find more information about monitoring and compliance.

 

Are you a health practitioner or student who is subject to a complaint or concern? If yes, this FAQ is for you

Complaints can be about the health, performance or conduct of a registered health practitioner or student and might include concerns that:

  • a practitioner is practising unsafely (performance)
  • a practitioner is behaving in a way that might place the public at risk (conduct), and/or
  • the practitioner has a health impairment that might make them a risk to their patients or the public.

An AHPRA officer will contact you by phone or in writing to let you know that a complaint or concern has been made about you. Occasionally, AHPRA is not able to advise a health practitioner or student that a complaint or concern has been received in the initial stages if this might:

  • prejudice an investigation 
  • place a person’s safety at risk, or 
  • place a person at risk of intimidation.

Please contact us if you believe that a complaint or concern may have been made about you. Before releasing any information about a complaint or a concern to you, AHPRA officers will ask you for information to prove your identity.

When a complaint or concern is identified about a registered health practitioner or student, the health practitioner is notified that a complaint or concern has been received. In most cases, the practitioner will also be asked to provide a response to the concerns identified in the complaint.

We are not able to advocate or advise registered health practitioners or students what information should be provided in their response to a complaint.

We encourage practitioners to seek legal representation through their professional indemnity insurer when they received notice that a complaint or concern has been raised about them. A National Board must take into account any submissions received from the practitioner or their legal representative, before deciding on what action, if any, to take.

Your response to the concerns may also be provided to the person who raised the complaint or concern about you. Ensure that you identify any information in your response that you do not want to be released to a person who has raised the complaint about you.

If the National Board intends to make a decision to stop you from working or to restrict your registration, you will be advised in writing and will be given an opportunity to respond before any action is taken.

Restrictions on your practice (including restrictions that stop you working) will be documented on the national register of practitioners. If you are unsure about whether you can work or not, contact us for further information.

Your employment agreement or contract may require you to inform your employer about a complaint or concern submitted to AHPRA. You should check your employment agreement or contract before informing your employer.

You need to tell your employer if a National Board decides to take action on your registration, such as:

  • suspension 
  • imposition of conditions 
  • accepting an undertaking 
  • a caution, or 
  • a reprimand.

Under section 206 of the National Law, we need to also advise your employer in writing if a National Board takes action on your registration.

Most decisions by a National Board are appealable. Further details of what decisions can be appealed and how the appeals process works can be found on the Appealing a decision page.

 

Have you made a complaint? If yes, this FAQ is for you

Complaints can be about the health, performance or conduct (behaviour) of registered health practitioners and might include concerns that:

  • a practitioner is practising unsafely (performance)
  • a practitioner is behaving in a way that might place the public at risk (conduct), and/or
  • the practitioner has a health impairment that might make them a risk to their patients or the public.

You can contact AHPRA by phone, email, post, the online form or in person.

If you are in Queensland, all complaints about registered health practitioners or students are made to the Office of the Health Ombudsman. The Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) can be contacted via its website or by contacting 133 OHO (133 646).

If you are in NSW and would like to make a complaint about a registered practitioner who works in NSW, you can contact:

Find all of our contact information, including AHPRA State and Territory office contact details.

You can contact at AHPRA any time when you have a complaint or a concern that there might be risk to the public. AHPRA considers particular types of complaints or concerns but does not need you to try and resolve your complaint or concerns with the health practitioner or their employer before you make contact. However, if you want an apology, an explanation or a review of the care or treatment a health practitioner provided to you, you should first contact the place where you received the care or contact a health complaints entity (HCE) in your state or territory.

AHPRA and the National Boards primary focus is public protection. To keep the public safe, AHPRA and National Boards can take action that might affect a practitioner’s registration.

AHPRA and the National Boards can only take action against a health practitioner’s registration and cannot help resolve the issue, nor arrange for compensation or the return of patient records.

If you want an apology, compensation, an explanation or a review of the care a health practitioner provided, you should contact the place where you received care or contact the health complaints entity (HCE) in your state or territory.

Yes. We understand that the circumstances that led to you making a complaint or raising a concern about a health practitioner or student might have been distressing or stressful.

AHPRA is an objective party that does not advocate on behalf of a person making a complaint or a practitioner. However, if you need additional support through the complaints process or would like a referral to an agency that may be able to provide specialised support, please contact us.

The actions of AHPRA and the National Boards are not intended to punish or penalise a practitioner.

As set out in our Regulatory principles for the National Scheme, we respond to complaints in ways that are proportionate and manage risk so we can adequately protect the public. When taking action, a National Board will use the minimum force required to manage any risk to the public posed by the practitioner.

This means that a National Board will only take the action needed to address the risk identified to protect the public. The National Board cannot take any action solely to punish or penalise a practitioner.

We respect your right to remain anonymous or make a confidential complaint to AHPRA. But doing so may limit our ability to consider, investigate or take action about your concerns. You can find more information under anonymous complaints or concerns.

The National Law provides protection from civil, criminal and administrative liability for people who make a complaint or raise a concern about a registered health practitioner or student if the complaint or concern raised is made ‘in good faith’. A complaint or concern raised about a practitioner ‘in good faith’ is one that is made honestly, sincerely and fairly.

Yes. You can make a complaint on behalf of another person or have someone act on your behalf during the complaints process. For someone to act on your behalf, we will need your written consent. This is particularly important if you were the patient and you are nominating another party to act as your representative throughout the process because we will provide that party with all relevant information related to the matter. This may include health records or other personal information about you.

You can find more information under AHPRA’s Privacy policy.

If you are a patient, a person might make a complaint about a practitioner who provided care to you.

As you are not the person who made the complaint, AHPRA will not be able to discuss details of the complaint with you. However, we might contact you to ask for information, or ask for your consent to obtain your health records.

Sometimes, the National Board or AHPRA might decide not to contact the patient as part of the complaints process if this might either cause harm to the patient or would be detrimental to the management of that complaint.

There is no statutory timeframe to lodge a complaint. However, it is usually better not to let a complaint get too old before reporting it to us. If a complaint is received many years after the event, it can be difficult to rely on people’s memories or to find all relevant records.

If the practitioner or student has passed away, we are unable to progress the complaint.

We need you to provide as much relevant information as you can when you first contact us so that we can decide whether we can proceed. This might include:

  • your details (unless you wish to remain anonymous)
  • the details of the registered health practitioner or student (s) the complaint or concern is about
  • details of the incident(s) such as what happened, where it happened and whether there were any witnesses
  • date of the event(s)
  • if you are acting on behalf of someone else, whether you have obtained their consent
  • if you are a registered health practitioner, whether you are making a mandatory notification
  • whether you have discussed the matter or complained directly with the health practitioner concerned or another organisation, and
  • any supporting documentation.

We will contact you if we need to clarify or require further information. 

No. Under the current National Law the person who raised the complaint or concern about a health practitioner or student is unable to request a review of or appeal against any decision made by a National Board. If you are unhappy with AHPRA’s administrative processes, you can make a complaint directly to AHPRA or the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman.

You can find more information about AHPRA’s Complaints policy and the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman on our website.

 
 
 
 
Page reviewed 2/09/2016