Doctor/patient relationships

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04.When and how to complain

HospitalFilesIf you’ve had a bad experience with a doctor or any health professional, you should complain. The doctor may not actually realise they’ve caused mental anguish or offence, and your complaint may discourage them doing it again.

For serious complaints, your actions can protect others from an incompetent or unprofessional GP. Put your concerns in writing, complete with names, dates and places. Do this as soon as possible after the event so you don’t forget details. Send a letter to the practice manager or hospital, and give the doctor a chance to respond.

If there’s no response, or you’re not satisfied with the response, take it to the health care ombudsman in your state or territory who will determine the most appropriate way of dealing with your complaint. If it’s considered unjustified or frivolous, it will be dismissed; if a serious complaint is upheld, it may warrant disciplinary action and/or the doctor’s deregistration.

The most common official complaints about doctors relate to: 

  • Poor treatment: misdiagnosis, wrong or inadequate treatment. 
  • Problems with communication, including poor attitude and the provision of wrong or inadequate information, for example about the treatment. 
  • Professional conduct, such as incompetence, assault, sexual misconduct, fraud and other inappropriate behaviour, and impairment due to drugs or alcohol. 
  • Medication: prescribing or administering incorrect or inappropriate medication.


ACT Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner
(02) 6205 2222

Health Care Complaints Commission
1800 043 159 (within NSW)

Commissioner for Health & Community Services Complaints
1800 806 380

Health Quality and Complaints Commission
1800 077 308 (within Qld excluding Brisbane), (07) 3120 5999 (Brisbane)

South Australia
The SA Ombudsman
1800 182 150

Health Complaints Commissioner
1800 001 170 (within Tasmania)

Office of the Health Services Commissioner
1800 136 066

Western Australia
Office of Health Review
1800 813 583 (within WA)


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