The office of the Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC) has now replaced the office of the Health Services Commissioner. This is the culmination of many years work reviewing Victoria’s health complaints framework and developing new legislation, the Health Complaints Act 2016 (Vic), to meet the challenges presented by modern healthcare.
While our core work of resolving complaints about health services and the handling of health information in Victoria remains the same, there are several important changes of which you should be aware.
The new legislation includes a much broader definition of a ‘health service’, partly describing it as an activity performed “to assess, predict, maintain or improve the person’s physical, mental or psychological health or status”. This means the HCC has jurisdiction over a wide range of non-registered providers we were previously unable to deal with. In addition, anyone will be able to complain to us, not just consumers themselves.
The new legislation includes a Code of Conduct for non-registered practitioners or those practising outside their area of registration. This provides a minimum standard that non-registered practitioners will be required to meet, as well as grounds for complaints or investigations. Any interim or permanent prohibition orders issued with these investigations will be mutually recognised between Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. A copy of the Code of Conduct, as well as information about how to make a complaint to the HCC, must be made available to clients of the health service.
The new Act envisages a much greater capacity to investigate matters where there is a risk to the health, safety or welfare of individuals or the public. The HCC will conduct follow up investigations into undertakings made by health services within the formal resolution process, the Minister will be able to refer matters for investigation and the Commissioner will be able to conduct own motion investigations, following advice from the President of the HCC Advisory Council.
The new legislation sets out complaints handling standards to which all health services must comply. The interim standards included in the Act will be replaced by a new set to be developed by the HCC, in consultation with health providers and consumers, over the next two years.
There are new information sharing arrangements with AHPRA and the Department of Health & Human Services. We are also working closely with Safer Care Victoria and a new health information agency in DHHS to further the quality and safety agenda.
Good complaints handling serves all parties. Across sectors it has been demonstrated that effective, sensitive and responsive complaints handling can help improve efficiency and service quality. It also plays a role in maintaining confidence in our health system. As practitioners and frontline staff you have an important role in this, which we recognise by asking all complainants to raise their concerns with you first before making complaint to us.
When complaints cannot be resolved locally, we offer an independent and impartial service focused on achieving fair outcomes. You are best placed to let consumers know about this service and we have provided you below with links to information to do this.
We are committed to an independent and impartial approach to complaints resolution in support of safe and ethical healthcare. We trust you will join us in this important work.
What should I do now?
1. Distribute the Complaint Handling Standards that now apply to all Victorian health service providers.
2. Distribute the Code of Conduct that now applies to Victorian general health service providers.
3. Advise your members to update the complaints section of their website with this text, or similar:
If you are not satisfied with our service, please contact us. We take complaints seriously and aim to resolve them quickly and fairly.
If you remain dissatisfied with our response, you may contact the Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC). The HCC responds to complaints about health services and the handling of health information in Victoria. Their service is free, confidential and impartial. To lodge a complaint with the HCC:
Fill out a complaint form online at www.hcc.vic.gov.au or
Phone 1300 582 113 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday to discuss your complaint.
4. Make HCC information materials available to your members:
Download a copy of the Code of Conduct: In brief (A4)
Download a copy of the Code of Conduct: Full text (A3)
Download 'Expect safe and ethical healthcare' poster (A3)