Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - New complaints checklist launched
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New complaints checklist launched

02 Nov 2023

New complaints checklist launched

 Key points
  • A new checklist has been launched to help registered health practitioners better address complaints from patients and clients
  • The checklist is the result of a joint project between Ahpra, the 15 National Boards and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
  • Consumers, health complaints bodies, professional organisations and indemnity insurers were consulted in the development of the checklist
  • The checklist aims to better equip practitioners to handle patient complaints and to resolve issues quickly and effectively when they are first raised.

A new checklist for registered health practitioners aims to help them better address complaints when they are first raised by a patient or client.

The checklist is an outcome of a joint project between the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission), the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the 15 National Boards that regulate registered health practitioners.

A Consumer Health Complaints Reference Group was formed to provide advice on the joint project. The community and health practitioner members of that group contributed to the development of the checklist.

Input was also sought from consumers, health complaints bodies, professional organisations, and indemnity insurers in the development of the checklist.

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) welcomed the checklist.

‘This checklist was developed with insights from consumers and the CHF welcomes its release to enhance Ahpra’s existing patient complaint processes,’ CHF CEO Dr Elizabeth Deveny said.

‘It’s important that health practitioners feel supported in dealing with patient concerns and complaints as issues can often be resolved at this point.

‘Of course, there will always be a need for some patients to make formal complaints to an independent body and CHF will continue to work with Ahpra to make that process as easy and accessible as possible.’

Well-managed feedback or complaints can: 

  • lead to concerns being resolved more quickly and easily 
  • increase patient, client and the community’s confidence in a practitioner or health service 
  • result in changes to improve services in response to the concerns raised, and 
  • prevent a concern escalating to an external complaint body or regulator. 

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care CEO, Conjoint Professor Anne Duggan, said, ‘Respectfully listening to patients and their carers’ concerns, together with taking corrective action as soon as possible, not only improves the quality of services provided but creates a positive culture to support the relationships which are important to ongoing care. This checklist will be helpful for clinicians wanting to improve their complaints handling.’

Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said complaints about an individual practitioner’s communication totaled 12.6 per cent of all the types of concerns received by the regulator in 2022/23.

The types of concerns relating to communication include practitioners:

  • not responding to contact from patients
  • being rude and dismissive of patients’ concerns
  • not adequately communicating treatment plans, and
  • not openly communicating or being transparent about errors in their practice.

‘We know that receiving negative feedback or a complaint can be confronting and may be stressful for practitioners,’ Mr Fletcher said.

‘The checklist provides guidance, so practitioners are more equipped to deal with feedback and complaints that are made directly to them by patients or clients. We hope it will help practitioners better resolve some of these concerns when they are first raised.’  

The checklist is a resource to support practice and does not impose any additional obligations on practitioners. National Boards’ expectations about what to do when a practitioner receives a complaint from a patient or client is outlined in their respective codes of conduct or ethics.

The checklist, along with other resources covering a range of topics to support practitioner’s practice, are available on Ahpra’s Resources page. 

A list of general support services that practitioners is also available on the Ahpra website as well as specific practitioner support services for practitioners in the dental, medical, midwifery, nursing and pharmacy professions.  

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Page reviewed 2/11/2023