Making a complaint or notification 

The best way of sorting out a problem is to discuss it with the person concerned. We advise any complainant to talk first to the physiotherapist about the concern, but if this isn’t possible, you feel uncomfortable doing that, or you’re not satisfied with the response you receive, you have a few options:

  • You can notify the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
  • If you are in NSW, you can complain to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC)
  • If you are in Queensland, you can speak to the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO)
  • Or you can complain to the health complaints entity (HCE) in your state or territory.

The APA can only hear complaints about our members. However, the APA must wait for the relevant authority to complete its investigation and issue its decision. We will take the authority’s decision into account when we decide what action we will take. You can call us on 1300 306 622 to find out if a physiotherapist is a member.

If the person is not a registered practitioner, you should contact the health complaints entity in your state or territory. You may also contact the professional association for that profession – they may be able to give you information and advice.

Registered practitioners are required to have public liability insurance. It is frequently a condition of the policy that the practitioner must not discuss or negotiate compensation in the case of a complaint and that all complaints are referred to the insurer.


FAQs

Who can make a complaint to AHPRA or a Health Complaints Entity?
What can I complain about?
Who are 'registered health practitioners'?
What do AHPRA and National Boards do?
How to make a complaint or notification to AHPRA
What are Health Complaints Entities (HCE)?
What is the health complaints entity in my state or territory?
Complaints about AHPRA or the 14 National Boards
I’m not happy about the service I received from my physiotherapist. What should I do?
I want compensation. Who do I speak to?
I think I was overcharged. What do I do?
I was hurt during my treatment. What should I do?
I think a physiotherapist is not acting ethically
Do I have to notify AHPRA if I think the conduct of a registered health practitioner or student might cause harm?
I would like to complain about aged care services, including about the application of the ACFI.
Someone is using a title they are not entitled to use – use and protection of title

Who can make a complaint to AHPRA or a Health Complaints Entity?

  • the person who experienced the problem.
  • a parent or guardian of the person concerned. 
  • a relative, friend or representative chosen by the person concerned 
  • a health service provider or other concerned person.

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What can I complain about?

AHPRA hears complaints about any registered health practitioner about clinical care and treatment, or professional conduct.
Health Complaint Entities (HCE) in each state or territory also receive complaints about health practitioners who do not require registration to practise, for example, naturopaths, psychotherapists, dieticians or massage therapists.
You can also complain to the HCEs in each state or territory about clinical care or treatment provided by health service organisations like hospitals, clinics and medical centres.

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Who are 'registered health practitioners'?

AHPRA and the professions’ National Boards regulate the following professions:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice
  • Chinese Medicine
  • Chiropractic
  • Dental
  • Medical
  • Medical radiation practice
  • Nursing and Midwifery
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Osteopathy
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry
  • Psychology

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What do AHPRA and the National Boards do?

The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act as in force in each state and territory, or ‘national law’, regulates ‘registered health practitioners’. AHPRA supports the professions’ National Boards to enforce that legislation. The professions’ National Boards will hear a complaint or notification about:

  • the health of a practitioner if it affects or may affect their practice
  • the professional conduct of a registered health practitioner   
  • the knowledge, skill or judgment of a registered health practitioner

A complaint about a registered health practitioner is called a ‘notification’, except in Queensland where the word used is ‘complaint’.


National Boards are primarily concerned with registered practitioners’ fitness to practice. They do not have powers to redress consumers’ concerns, like conciliation or compensation. National Boards receive information about registered practitioners, investigate those matters and decide what action to take against registered practitioners if they have broken conditions of registration.


AHPRA works closely with, and refers relevant matters to HCEs according to the Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) they share.


If AHPRA cannot hear a complaint it may refer the complaint to a different authority.

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How to make a complaint or notification to AHPRA?

If you have a complaint about a registered health professional in Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria, ACT or Tasmania call AHPRA on 1300 419 495. You can also fill in the Notifications form or visit an AHPRA office in the state or territory capitals. More information is available on the AHPRA website.

In NSW, The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) manages complaints or notifications. Refer to the HCCC website or call 02 - 9219 7444

In Queensland, the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) receives and assesses complaints. For more information about making a complaint in Queensland, call 133646 (133 OHO) or visit their website.


If necessary, the OHO and HCCC refer the complaint to AHPRA.

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What are Health Complaints Entities (HCE)?

HCEs investigate concerns about individual healthcare providers and organisations. They can investigate concerns about fees and costs, for example, and only HCEs can help with financial compensation, and mediation or conciliation.

AHPRA works closely with, and refers relevant matters to HCEs according to the Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) they share.

If you complain directly to a health complaint entity, the matter may be referred to AHPRA if it is the appropriate authority in that case.

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What is the health complaints entity in my state or territory?

WA: Health and Disability Services Complaints Office (HaDSCO) Tel: (08) 6551 7600 or 1800 813 583
NT: Health and Community Services Complaints Commission (HCSCC) Toll Free: 1800 004 474
SA: Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner (HCSCC) Tel: 08 8226 8666, Toll free: 1800 232 007
VIC: Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC): Tel: 1300 582 113
ACT: ACT Human Rights Commissioner – ACT Health Services Commissioner (02) 6205 2222
TAS: Health Complaints Commissioner Tasmania Toll Free in Tasmania: 1800 001 170
NSW: The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) Tel: 02 - 9219 7444
QLD: Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) Tel: 133646 (133 OHO)

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Complaints about AHPRA or the 14 National Boards

If your complaint is about the accountability, transparency and responsiveness of the regulatory system administered by AHPRA, the 14 National Boards, AHPRA's Agency Management Committee or The Australian Health Workforce Advisory Council you should contact the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner 

Office of the NHP Ombudsman

The Office of the NHP Ombudsman receives complaints from people who have concerns about the administrative processes of the national agencies within the National Scheme. It also reviews the handling of Freedom of Information processes and actions undertaken by the agencies.

The Office of the NHP Privacy Commissioner

The Office of the NHP Privacy Commissioner receives complaints from people who believe their personal information has not been handled appropriately by one of the national agencies within the National Scheme.
You can make a complaint:

  • in writing to Office of the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner
  • Suite 2321, Level 23, HWT Tower, 40 City Road, Southgate, VIC, 3006
  • by telephone 03 9674 0421 (interpreter services: 131 450)
  • email complaints@nhpopc.gov.au
  • download a complaint form.

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I’m not happy about the service I received from my physiotherapist. What should I do?

We advise you to discuss the problem with the healthcare provider concerned. Often, problems can be sorted out much more quickly and satisfactorily this way. However, if this isn’t possible or you feel uncomfortable doing that, or you’re not satisfied with the response you receive, you may also consider speaking to AHPRA, or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) if you are in NSW, or the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) if you are in Queensland to discuss whether it is a matter they should investigate. You can also speak to the health complaints entity in your state or territory, or the APA.

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I want to complain about someone who is not a physiotherapist. Who should I speak to?

If you need to complain about a registered practitioner you can contact AHPRA, or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) if you are in NSW, or the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) if you are in Queensland, or the health complaints entity in your state or territory.

If the person is not a registered practitioner, you should contact the health complaints entity in your state or territory. You may also contact the professional association for that profession – they may be able to give you information and advice.

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I want compensation. Who do I speak to?

We advise you to discuss the problem with the healthcare provider concerned. Often, problems can be sorted out much more quickly and satisfactorily this way. However, if this isn’t possible or you feel uncomfortable doing that, or you’re not satisfied with the response you receive, you can speak to the health complaints entity in your state or territory. You should also consider seeking independent legal advice from a lawyer with expertise in the field related to your complaint.


Registered practitioners are required to have public liability insurance. It is frequently a condition of the policy that the practitioner must not discuss or negotiate compensation in the case of a complaint and that all complaints are referred to the insurer.

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I think I was overcharged. What do I do?

We advise you to discuss the problem with the healthcare provider concerned. Often, problems can be sorted out much more quickly and satisfactorily this way. However, if this isn’t possible or you feel uncomfortable doing that, or you’re not satisfied with the response you receive, you can speak to the health complaints entity in your state or territory. You may also consider speaking to AHPRA, or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) if you are in NSW, or the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) if you are in Queensland to discuss whether it is a matter they should investigate.

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I was hurt during my treatment. What should I do?

We advise you to discuss this with the healthcare provider concerned. However, if this isn’t possible, you feel uncomfortable doing that, or you’re not satisfied with the response you receive, you can speak to the health complaints entity in your state or territory. You may also consider speaking to AHPRA, or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) if you are in NSW, or the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) if you are in Queensland to discuss whether it is a matter they should investigate.


Registered practitioners are required to have public liability insurance. It is frequently a condition of the policy that the practitioner must not discuss or negotiate compensation in the case of a complaint and that all complaints are referred to the insurer.

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I think a physiotherapist is not acting ethically

Physiotherapists must adhere to the APHRA Code of Conduct. You should contact AHPRA, or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) if you are in NSW, or the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) if you are in Queensland to discuss whether it is a matter they should investigate.

If the physiotherapist is your contractor or employee or an employer, you should seek independent legal advice. You can also contact the regulator to check if it’s a matter they should investigate.

Premium Principal and Business Affiliate Members of the APA’s Physiotherapy Business Australia (PBA) group can access our HR in Practice service. This service provides members with free HR and industrial advice. Additional services are available for a fee. Contact HR in Practice on 1300 138 954.

Members of the APA who are insured through Insurance House may access 30 minutes free legal advice and should call 1300 305 834 for more information.

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Do I have to notify AHPRA if I think the conduct of a registered health practitioner or student might cause harm?

Detailed guidelines on mandatory notifications are available from the Physiotherapy Board of Australia.ahp


You must advise AHPRA or a National Board as soon as practicable if you have a reasonable belief another practitioner or student in clinical training may place the public at serious risk of harm. The person with most direct knowledge about the notifiable conduct should generally be encouraged to make a notification.


In Queensland treating practitioners do not have to make a mandatory notification where the practitioner providing the service reasonably believes that the notifiable conduct relates to an impairment which will not place the public at substantial risk of harm and is not professional misconduct.


In Western Australia practitioners are not required to make a mandatory notification when their reasonable belief about misconduct or impairment is formed in the course of providing health services to a health practitioner or student. However, practitioners in Western Australia continue to have a professional and ethical obligation to protect and promote public health and safety. They may therefore make a voluntary notification or may encourage the practitioner or student they are treating to self-report.


You must report ‘notifiable conduct’. ‘Notifiable conduct’ by registered health practitioners is defined as:

  • practising while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • sexual misconduct in the practice of the profession
  • placing the public at risk of substantial harm because of a health issue, or
  • placing the public at risk because of a significant departure from accepted professional standards.

You must also have a ‘reasonable belief’ that the conduct is taking place. A belief is based on reasonable grounds when:

  • all known considerations relevant to the formation of a belief are taken into account including matters of opinion, and
  • those known considerations are objectively assessed.

A reasonable belief requires a stronger level of knowledge than a mere suspicion, speculation, rumours, gossip or innuendo. Examples of grounds for a reasonable belief are:

  • Your observations
  • A disclosure of information by the practitioner or student
  • Allegations by a third party

Education providers must make a mandatory notification if they have a reasonable belief that a student undertaking clinical training has an impairment that may place the public at substantial risk of harm.

The national law provides protection from civil, criminal and administrative liability, including defamation, for people making notifications in good faith, that is being well-intentioned or without malice. Practitioners should be aware that if they make notifications that are frivolous, vexatious or not in good faith, they may be subject to conduct action.

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I would like to complain about aged care services, including about the application of the ACFI.

The Aged Care Complaints Scheme (the scheme) is operated by the Department of Social Services (DSS). It provides a free service for anyone to raise concerns about the quality of care and services being delivered to people receiving aged care services subsidised by the Australian Government, including:

  • Residential care
  • Home Care Packages
  • Commonwealth funded HACC services

You should raise your concern with the service provider first, if you feel comfortable to do so. If you don’t want to discuss your concern with the service provider or you can’t resolve your concern with them, you can contact the scheme:


Call:

1800 550 552 (a free call from fixed lines; calls from mobiles may be charged)


Write:

Aged Care Complaints Scheme

Australian Department of Social Services

GPO Box 9820

(Your capital city and state/territory)


For more information, refer to the DSS.

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Someone is using a title they are not entitled to use – use and protection of title:

The National Law does not allow a person to use the title “physiotherapist” or “physical therapist” if they are not registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia (PhysioBA).


The National Law does not allow a person who is not a registered health practitioner to use a title, name, initial, symbol, word or description that, having regard to the circumstances in which it is taken or used, indicates or could be reasonably understood to indicate they are a registered professional.


If you have a complaint about a registered health professional in Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria, ACT or Tasmania call AHPRA on 1300 419 495. You can also fill in the Notifications form or visit an AHPRA office in the state or territory capitals. More information is available on the AHPRA website. In NSW, The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) manages complaints or notifications. Refer to the HCCC website or call 02 - 9219 7444. In Queensland, the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) receives and assesses complaints. For more information about making a complaint in Queensland, call 133646 (133 OHO) or visit their website. If necessary, the OHO and HCCC refer the complaint to AHPRA.


Basis for notification/complaint to HCCC/OHO/AHPRA related to use and protection of title:

The stated objective and guiding principle of the National Law is that the protection of the health and safety of the public must be the paramount consideration. If you make a complaint about the use of a title, it will be considered against the following sections of the National Law:


s113 Restriction on use of protected titles

A person must not knowingly or recklessly—

(a) take or use a title in [ ] this section, in a way that could be reasonably expected to induce a belief the person is registered under this Law [ ], unless the person is registered in the profession, or

(b) take or use a prescribed title for a health profession, in a way that could be reasonably expected to induce a belief the person is registered under this Law in the profession, unless the person is registered in the profession.


s116 Claims by persons as to registration as health practitioner

(1) A person who is not a registered health practitioner must not knowingly or recklessly—

(b) take or use a title, name, initial, symbol, word or description that, having regard to the circumstances in which it is taken or used, indicates or could be reasonably understood to indicate—

(i) the person is a health practitioner; or

(ii) the person is authorised or qualified to practise in a health profession;


133 Advertising

(1) A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be misleading or deceptive;

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