How are notifications managed?

There are a number of organisations responsible for considering complaints or concerns about health practitioners or students. We want to help you identify the right organisation for you, so that your concerns can be addressed as quickly as possible.

AHPRA is the right place if you are concerned that a health practitioner may be behaving in a way that could present a risk to you, to other patients or members of the public. This applies to all states and territories, except NSW and Qld.

Any person or organisation can make a notification with AHPRA if they have concerns about a registered health practitioner or student. The National Law provides protection from civil, criminal and administrative liability for people who make a notification in good faith with AHPRA.

Further information

Expand the links below for more information on making a notification with AHPRA about a registered health practitioner or student.

Below are some examples of concerns that we can consider. Contact us if you are not sure and we can help you get in touch with the right agency.

Concerns that a practitioner is working or providing patient care in an unsafe way, such as:

  • serious or repeated mistakes in carrying out procedures, in diagnosis or in prescribing medications for a patient 
  • a failure to examine a patient properly or to respond reasonably to a patient’s needs 
  • serious concerns about the way in which a practitioner managed someone’s personal information 
  • serious concerns about the way a practitioner is prescribing medication
  • serious concerns about the practitioner’s ability to understand and communicate in English, or 
  • serious concerns about the practitioner’s skills, knowledge or judgement in their profession.

Concerns about the way a practitioner behaves, including:

  • a practitioner abusing their professional position, for example by engaging in an sexual or personal relationship with a patient or someone close to a patient 
  • inappropriate examinations of a patient 
  • acts of violence, sexual assault or indecency 
  • acts of fraud or dishonesty 
  • any serious criminal acts, or 
  • any other behaviour that is inconsistent with the practitioner being fit and proper to be a registered health practitioner.

Concerns that a practitioner has a health issue or impairment that might cause harm to a member of the public if it is not appropriately managed, including that a practitioner might have a problem with alcohol or drugs.

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 health service or centre where you received the care or contact a health complaints organisation in your state or territory.

Under the National Law, concerns are called ‘notifications’. This is because you are ‘notifying’ AHPRA and the National Board about your concern.

We use the term ‘notifier’ for the person raising a concern about a registered health practitioner or student.

AHPRA and the National Boards only manage concerns about registered health practitioners or students, people pretending to be registered health practitioners or about people advertising regulated health services usually provided by registered health practitioners.

A registered health practitioner is someone who is registered to practise as one of the following:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners 
  • Chinese medicine practitioner (including acupuncturists, Chinese herbal medicine practitioners and Chinese herbal dispensers) 
  • chiropractors 
  • dental practitioners (including dentists, dental hygienists, dental prosthetists and dental therapists)
  • medical practitioners 
  • medical radiation practitioners (including diagnostic radiographers, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists) 
  • midwives
  • nurses 
  • occupational therapists 
  • optometrists 
  • osteopaths 
  • paramedics
  • pharmacists 
  • physiotherapists 
  • podiatrists, and
  • psychologists.

If you want to make a notification about a health practitioner in a profession that is not listed above, or if your complaint is about a health service or a health service provider, your local health complaints organisation may be able to help.

AHPRA and the National Boards can take action that might affect a health practitioner’s registration if it is necessary to keep the public safe.

When we receive a notification, we look at whether or not the practitioner is practising appropriately and safely.

We present information about individual practitioners who might not be practising appropriately and safely to the National Board who registered the individual.

A National Board will take action to protect the public if it finds that a health practitioner’s:

  • behaviour is placing the public at risk
  • practise of their profession is unsafe, and/or
  • ability to make safe judgements about their patients or to provide care safely might be impaired because of the practitioner’s health.

If a National Board believes that it needs to take action to make sure the public is safe, it can:

  • Take immediate action to restrict a health practitioner’s ability to practise if it believes this is necessary to protect the public 
  • Caution a practitioner, which is a warning to a practitioner about their conduct or the way they practise 
  • Impose conditions or accept an undertaking from a practitioner that requires the practitioner to do something or stop doing something, for example:
    • the practitioner must practise under supervision, or 
    • the practitioner must not prescribe certain types of medication.
  • Refer a practitioner to a hearing by a panel that has the same powers as the National Board, as well as the ability to reprimand a practitioner. There are two different types of panels practitioners may be referred to: 
    • a performance and professional standards panel if the concerns relate to the practitioner’s performance and/or conduct, or 
    • a health panel if the concerns relate to the practitioner’s health. 
  • Refer a practitioner to an independent tribunal that has the power to reprimand, fine, suspend or cancel a practitioner’s registration.

AHPRA and the National Boards are responsible for making sure that only health practitioners who have the appropriate skills and qualifications to provide safe, ethical care are registered to practise, so we take seriously every concern we receive.

The fact that a concern has been raised does not automatically affect a practitioner’s ability to practise. A National Board will only take action to restrict a practitioner’s registration if it believes this is necessary to protect the public.

Would you like to raise a notification about a health service, or is your matter something AHPRA is not able to help you with? Find out more information about raising a concern about a registered health practitioner or student.

Watch our video to help decide if AHPRA is the right place for your concerns. Don't forget to press pause to make note of important information in the video, or find further information below.

AHPRA and the National Boards have a responsibility to protect the public. This means that we take seriously all notifications received about health practitioners and follow up on all information that suggests there could be a risk to the public.

When you make a notification about a registered health practitioner or student, we will use that information to assess whether or not there is a risk to the public.

Once you provide a name or any details that will identify the health practitioner, the National Law requires us to assess your concern. We will need to consider the matter even if you decide not to continue with the process or if you want to withdraw your concern.

If you are unsure about raising your concerns, you can contact us and ask general questions about AHPRA or the process.

When raising a concern with AHPRA about a registered health practitioner or student, you can expect us to be:

  • Accessible
    You can contact us by telephone or via a web enquiry. If you need access to a translator or interpreter, we can make arrangements through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National).
  • Informative
    We will listen to you and ask questions about your concerns. We will then give you information about the National Boards and AHPRA, the notifications process, your role and the role of the practitioner in that process. If we don’t think we are the right place to address your concerns, we will refer you to the correct health complaints organisation or agency. 
  • Responsive
    We will acknowledge your concern, keep you updated during the process, and tell you the decision and the reasons for that decision, wherever possible. There are some situations when we may not be able to provide a lot of information, but we will always let you know when a matter has been finalised.
  • Independent
    We only act in the interests of the public. Our role is to identify risks and potential risks to the public and manage those risks in an impartial and transparent manner. We cannot advocate for, or act in the interests of, either practitioners or people who raise concerns with us. Our role is to act in the public interest.

We can understand and manage your concern more easily if you use clear and simple language.

The information below may help you in telling us about your concern:

  • provide us with as much information as you can, but try and stick to the main facts
  • consider writing down what happened, the sequence of events, chronology or relevant points before you contact us
  • provide any relevant documents or additional information that will help us or that we ask for
  • tell us what outcomes you might be seeking by raising your concern, and
  • even if you feel angry or frustrated, staying calm and focusing on the main issues will help you get your point across.

We understand that telling us about your concerns can be stressful or upsetting. If you would like to talk to someone about the process, contact us on 1300 419 495 or please read our help and support information.

We respect your right to withhold your name and contact details when you make a notification.

Remaining anonymous means that you do not provide any identifying information when you submit your notification to us (such as your name, address or contact details).

If you wish to remain anonymous you should be aware that your notification can usually only be assessed on the information you provide when you contact AHPRA. If you remain anonymous, we will be unable to seek clarification or additional information from you. This means it might be difficult for us to assess your concerns or progress the matter. Also, we will not be able to advise you of any outcome or actions taken.

We respect your right to raise your concerns with us and when you do, we ask for your consent for AHPRA to share details (such as name and date of birth, if you are the patient) with the practitioner. If you do not wish for your name to be given to the practitioner, please let us know.

For full details of how AHPRA and the National Boards collect, hold, use and disclose personally identifiable information, you should see our Privacy Policy. We summarise some key points from the Policy below, but this is only provided as a general guide. To avoid any misunderstanding we recommend that you should always refer to the Privacy Policy.

Even though AHPRA and the National Board will endeavour not to provide your details to the practitioner if you do not consent to this, the practitioner will be provided with the details of the notification and this might be enough information for the practitioner to identify you.

We are also unable to guarantee absolute confidentiality as there are situations when we may be legally obliged to provide identifying information to the practitioner or another person. For example, if a concern about a practitioner was to be heard in front of a panel or tribunal, the practitioner must be provided with enough information about the notification to enable them to respond to it. We may also be required by law to disclose information in certain circumstances.

When you make a notification about a health practitioner or student, we gather information to assess whether there is a risk to the public. This information will help us determine whether regulatory action is needed to protect the public.

It is important that you know and understand your rights and our obligations if or when you consent to the collection, use or disclose of your personal information. The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) regulates AHPRA’s and the National Boards’ collection, use and disclosure of personal information. The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law), also imposes strict confidentiality obligations.

You can find more information about how AHPRA and the National Boards collect, hold, use and disclose personal information in the Privacy section of our website. The Privacy section includes our Privacy Policy, which explains: how you may access and seek correction of your personal or sensitive information held by AHPRA and the National Boards; how to complain to AHPRA about a breach of your privacy; and how your concerns will be dealt with.

Who needs to provide consent for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information?

If you want to raise a concern about a health practitioner or student, we will ask for your consent to use and share your information. Your consent is provided in writing by completing a consent form through the portal or which we can send to you. Written consent is also required if you would like another person to act on your behalf or if the patient does not have the capacity to make decisions or the patient is deceased. This is because throughout the process we will provide the party acting on your behalf or on behalf of the patient with all relevant information related to the matter.

We will generally seek the personal information required directly from you. However, we may also be required to obtain information from other people or other agencies about you. This might include third party witness statements, government agencies such as Medicare or health services and hospitals.

How we use your personal information

To consider your concern

When you raise a concern with usand we receive consent to collect, use or disclose personal information, the ways we might carry this out can include (but are not limited to) collection directly from an individual or organisation either in person, by hard copy or electronic correspondence, over the telephone, and via the internet.

Generally, we will inform the practitioner or student that a concern has been made about them and may disclose your personal information with the practitioner or student if you consent to this or, if it is required by law, provide them with your personal information.This is because the practitioner or student has the right to respond to the concerns raised and assists them to provide their response.

Examples of exceptions to informing the practitioner or student about the concern or providing your personal information may include where we believe it would:

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

You can elect to remain anonymous or confidential when you raise your concerns to us, but this may limit our ability to effectively investigate your concern, and there may be limitations on the information we can then provide to you. You can find more information under Anonymous concerns and Providing your name to the practitioner (above).

Using your information to improve the way we work

To improve the way we work and what we do, we may use your information in monitoring, reporting and training our staff. This might include asking you to participate in a survey or using statistical data already collected to improve process and procedure. An analysis of any statistical information may be published in our annual report, or in reports provided to our stakeholders.

When we use information in these ways, we remove any personal or identifiable information and ensure the careful control over security and confidentiality.

We receive a range of concerns about registered health practitioners that are related to their health, performance or conduct.

Your concerns could be about a practitioner being unable to meet the standard expected by their profession and the public because of the way they behave, the way they practise their profession or because of a physical or mental health impairment.

Common types of notifications we receive relate to:

  • the clinical care or treatment provided to a patient
  • the practitioner’s health or if they have a health impairment
  • a practitioner engaging in a personal or sexual relationship with a patient
  • the prescribing or dispensing of medications, including dose strength, amount or over-prescribing of addictive medications
  • a practitioner possibly having broken the law
  • the practitioner’s communication, including, someone being treated rudely, inappropriately or disrespectfully, or
  • the practitioner’s record keeping.

Further information about the concerns we receive is published each year in our Annual Report.

Page reviewed 26/07/2019