What is conciliation?
Conciliation is a process that provides an opportunity for the parties to a health care complaint to discuss the complaint and agree on ways to resolve it. Conciliation is confidential and privileged and promotes open and honest communication with the aim of achieving a better understanding between the parties and negotiating a mutually acceptable outcome. There is usually a formal conciliation meeting but by agreement some cases can be negotiated without a meeting or through a series of meetings between the Conciliator and the individual parties. The parties can withdraw from conciliation at any time.
What complaints are suitable for conciliation?
- where there has been a breakdown in communication
- where explanations are required and the parties want to understand or explain what happened and why
- where the complainant is seeking an improvement in the quality of the particular health service
- where there is a claim for damages, compensation or remedial treatment.
Why agree to conciliation?
Conciliation allows the parties to a complaint to state their point of view, listen to each other, discuss concerns or issues and attempt to resolve them in a way that is acceptable to both parties. Conciliation is:
- free and confidential
- informal and non-adversarial
- a process that can assist in restoring relationships
- an alternative to legal action without the need for legal representation.
What are some possible outcomes?
A detailed explanation can help the complainant understand what happened and why. This can often resolve a dispute.
Changes in policy or procedure
Through listening to the complainant and discussing the complaint, a provider may recognise problems with their processes or policies and undertake to correct them. This can prevent the same thing happening to someone else, as well as improve the quality of the health service.
Conciliation can encourage a provider to acknowledge deficiencies in their practice and apologise to the complainant for any adverse consequences.
Payment of compensation can be explored and negotiated in conciliation but the outcome must be agreed by both parties. The conciliator cannot decide or award compensation.
Frequently asked questions
How long does conciliation take?
This depends on the complexity of the complaint and the willingness of the parties to resolve the issues.
Can I still take legal action if conciliation is unsuccessful?
Yes. If the complaint is not resolved in conciliation, you retain your right (subject to limitation periods) to take action through the Courts. The parties to conciliation need to remember that information provided in conciliation cannot be used as evidence in a subsequent legal action.
Are conciliation records subject to the Right to Information Act 2009?
The Right to Information Act 2009 does not apply to information in the possession of the Health Complaints Commissioner unless the information relates to the administrative actions of the Health Complaints Commissioner’s Office.
Do I have to come to Hobart to conciliate?
No. The conciliation can be held at a convenient location and in some cases can be conducted by telephone, mail or email.