Frequently asked questions

What is a Health Service?

A health service is defined under the Health Complaints Act 1995 as a service provided to a person for, or purportedly for, the benefit of human health.

It includes the services set out in Part 1 Schedule 1 of the Health Complaints Act 1995:

SCHEDULE 1 - Health Services

PART 1 - Services that are health services

1.   A service provided at a hospital, health institution or nursing home.

2.   A medical, dental, pharmaceutical, mental health, community health, environmental health or specialized health service or a service related to such a service.

3.    A service provided for the care, treatment or accommodation of persons who are aged or have a physical disability or mental dysfunction.

4.   A laboratory service provided in support of a health service.

5.   A laundry, dry cleaning, catering or other support service provided to a hospital, health institution, nursing home or premises for the care, treatment or accommodation of persons who are aged or have a physical disability or mental dysfunction, if the service affects the care or treatment of a patient or a resident.

6.   A social work, welfare, recreational or leisure service, if provided as part of a health service.

7.   An ambulance service.

8.   Any other service provided by a provider for, or purportedly for, the care or treatment of another person.

9.   A service provided by an audiologist, audiometrist, optical dispenser, dietitian, prosthetist, dental prosthetist, psychotherapist, medical radiation science professional, podiatrist, therapeutic counsellor or any other service of a professional or technical nature provided for, or purportedly for, the care or treatment of another person or in support of a health service.

10.   A service provided by a practitioner of massage, naturopathy or acupuncture or in another natural or alternative health care or diagnostic field.

11.   The provision of information relating to the promotion or provision of health care or to health education.

11A.   A service provided at a hospital or health institution for the temporary storage of human remains as defined in the Burial and Cremation Act 2019 (external link).

12.   Any other service provided by a person registered by a registration board.

Who is a Health Service Provider?

A health service provider is a person who provides, or claims they are able to provide, a service to a person for the benefit of human health. This includes an administrative service directly related to a health service.

You can make a complaint about any health service provider in Tasmania.

This includes:

  • public or private hospitals
  • community health services
  • registered providers such as doctors and dentists or
  • non-registered providers such as counsellors and alternative therapists.

Complaints we receive often relate to:

  • unsatisfactory treatment
  • admission or referral problems
  • lack of respect or privacy
  • negligent or unprofessional behaviour
  • mishandled health information
  • poor communication.

Who can complain to us?

Any person who has been provided with a health service by a health service provider, and who is unhappy with the service, can make a complaint.

Can I complain on behalf of someone else?

Yes. We can accept complaints from a representative of the consumer. These may include:

  • The parent or guardian of a child under 14 years
  • A person appointed by a child over 14 years
  • The donee of a power of attorney
  • A legally appointed guardian, executor or (in some circumstances) a close friend or relative.

Can I make an anonymous complaint?

Yes. Depending on the nature of your complaint, however, it may make it more difficult to look into your complaint, especially if it is concerning your personal situation. We also may not be able to let you know the outcome of our inquiries or if we have decided to take no action.

What does it cost?

Nothing. The services of the Health Complaints Commissioner are free.

Is there a time limit for making a complaint?

Yes. It is two years from the date of the incident or when you first became aware of the circumstances that led to the complaint. The Commissioner may accept a complaint outside this time limit.

What happens after I've made a complaint?

We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint and assess it carefully. As a first step, we will usually contact you and the provider to see whether it can be resolved in early resolution. Many complaints are resolved at this early stage. If it is unable to be resolved we may move to a more formal assessment process.

How long will it take?

Some complaints can be resolved quickly, others take longer. Complex assessments and formal investigations can take several months. We will keep you informed of progress throughout the process and report the results.

What can complaints achieve?

Depending on the details of the complaint, outcomes may include:

  • an explanation about what happened and why
  • an apology
  • access to treatment
  • access or amendment to health records
  • a refund or compensation and/or changes at the service to prevent the same issue occurring again.

We may launch formal investigations if complaint resolution is unsuccessful.  We may also warn the public about dangerous health providers.

Do I need a lawyer?

Nobody needs a lawyer for our process. You can seek legal advice at any time. Health practitioners can also seek support in responding to complaints from a complaints manager at their service, or from a professional indemnity insurer, professional association or other support person.

Not happy with our decision?

If you do not agree with our decision, you can ask for a review. These reviews are handled by a senior member of our staff who has not been involved in your complaint. If you are still dissatisfied, you can complain to the Ombudsman (external link).

How do I make a complaint about the Office of the Health Complaints Commissioner or their staff?

The Office of the Health Complaints Commissioner welcomes feedback and complaints about the way we have performed our functions and/or exercised our powers under the Health Complaints Act 1995.

If you have a concern about the conduct of a staff member, please raise it with them in the first instance. If you are uncomfortable doing that, or you have already done so but remain dissatisfied, please outline your concerns, preferably in writing, to the Principal Officer or the Health Complaints Commissioner either by:

We will endeavour to respond to your complaint about our service within 14 days, but we will let you know if we require additional time to review the matter.

You can also contact Ombudsman Tasmania (external link) if you have concerns about the way this Office, or a delegate, has exercised their functions and powers.

Updated: 17th January 2023