Managing 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

I have received a complaint. What should I do?
I have received a letter from AHPRA or an HCE about a notification or complaint. What should I do?

 

I have received a complaint. What should I do?

Refer to the APA Code of Conduct and AHPRA’s codes and guidelines to make sure you’re complying with your professional requirements.

Insurance companies advise that under no circumstances should you admit liability for causing harm and you shouldn't offer compensation in these cases, because this could be percieved as an admission of liability. Compensation could be deemed to be free treatment or reduced fees. Your insurer will determine compensation and they will guide you.

APA members who receive anything in writing; for example, letter, writ, summons or process, and are insured through Insurance House should call the claims team on 1300 305 834. You should also inform your insurer of any event that you suspect may give rise to a complaint.


You should also:

Set up a complaints process

Design a clear, well-defined complaints process. It gives you, staff and patients a clear set of expectations about what to do when a patient has a complaint. It means everyone understands what to do and how to deal with complaints.

APA has partnered with Quality Innovation Performance (QIP) to deliver the Physiotherapy Accreditation Program. Members who are accredited by QIP can access a range of support materials by contacting QIP on 1300 888 329.

Listen

Listen to patients’ or others’ complaints about your practice and acknowledge their grievances. A good place to start is by thinking how you would like to be treated when you get service which is disappointing. Be willing to apologise.

An apology is not an admission of liability. Saying you’re sorry can diffuse conflict. Listening to and acknowledging a complaint demonstrates that you are trying to understand what went wrong.

Communicate

Don’t ignore a complaint. Deal with it as soon as possible. Let the complainant know the procedure for handling the complaint, the available options and the time you expect to deal with it. If unexpected events arise which make it difficult to keep previous arrangements, tell the complainant as soon as possible. Consider how you communicate with the patient, sometimes a face to face meeting may be better than a letter.

Keep records

Not only must your clinical notes be clear, relevant and factual but you must also keep notes about consent, and consider making a note about the interaction with the patient. Such notes may become evidence.

Make notes at the time of the events, date and time them. The note may be as simple as ‘nil adverse 6/5/14 0917h’ or ‘patient complained of late start of appt – apologized, explained due to overrun 12/3/14 1555’. Consider making more detailed notes about an interaction that was out of the ordinary, negative, or even positive. If you offer some form of acknowledgment of the complaint in the form of a reduction in price, for example, note the circumstances and the nature, e.g. ‘X complained of late appt. Apologised – gave 10% off consult for lateness’. 

Insurance companies advise that under no circumstances should you admit liability for causing harm and you shouldn’t offer compensation in these cases, because this could perceived as an admission of liability. Compensation could be deemed to be free treatment or reduced fees. Your insurer will determine compensation and they will guide you.

APA members who receive anything in writing; for example, letter, writ, summons or process, and are insured through Insurance House should call the claims team a call on 1300 305 834.

Seek advice

Most importantly, seek advice from a respected colleague, your employer, the APA, Trades’ Union, insurer, or from your state’s or territory’s Health Complaints Entity, or from an independent legal advisor.

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I have received a letter from AHPRA or an HCE about a notification or complaint. What should I do?

You should contact your insurance company immediately. You should inform your insurer of any event that you suspect may give rise to a complaint. Members of the APA who have professional indemnity cover as part of APA membership should contact Insurance House on 1300 305 834. Insurance House will provide advice. 

APA advises you to contact AHPRA as soon as possible, comply with the notification and seek independent legal advice. APA members should also contact the APA and inform us of the notification.

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