General providers

The HCC can handle complaints about health services provided by any organisation or person in Victoria. This includes both registered providers and general, or non-registered, providers.

General health service providers are those who are not legally required to be registered under national health practitioner regulation law. That is why they are also known as non-registered providers. The many types of practitioners in this category include audiologists, naturopaths, dieticians, speech pathologists, homeopaths, counsellors, massage therapists, alternative therapists and other providers of general health services.

In Australia, 14 health professions do require registration in order to practice. These are known as registered providers and are regulated under a national scheme by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

General code of conduct

The general code of conduct sets standards for general health service providers, meaning those not regulated by AHPRA. It also applies to registered providers operating outside their area of registration, for example a physiotherapist (a registered profession) providing reiki therapy (a general, or non-registered, profession).

The general code of conduct became Victorian law on 1 February 2017. Any possible breach of this code by a general provider may be grounds for a complaint to us, which we can attempt to resolve in a variety of ways. In some cases it may also be grounds for a formal investigation by us.

In summary, the general code of conduct says that general health services:

Must

  • Provide safe and ethical healthcare
  • Obtain consent for treatment
  • Take care to protect you from infection
  • Minimise harm and act appropriately if something goes wrong.
  • Report concerns about other practitioners
  • Keep appropriate records and comply with privacy laws
  • Be covered by insurance
  • Display information about the general code of conduct and making a complaint.

Must not

  • Mislead you about their products, services or qualifications
  • Put you at risk due to their own physical or mental health problems
  • Practice under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Make false claims about curing serious illnesses such as cancer
  • Exploit you financially
  • Have an inappropriate relationship with you
  • Discourage you from seeking other health care or refuse to cooperate with other practitioners if you do.

General health service providers should refer to the full text of the general code of conduct, taken from Schedule 2 of the Health Complaints Act 2016, to understand their responsibilities.

Providers must make a copy of the general code of conduct, as well as information about how to lodge a complaint with us, easily accessible to their patients or clients. The resources below can help you with this.

Actions

Compliance with the general code of conduct should not mean extra work for those already operating safely and ethically, but it does provide grounds for us to take action against those who are not. We may accept a complaint about any possible breach of this code by a non-registered provider in Victoria. We will attempt to resolve complaints quickly and informally where possible, though our process allows for a number of approaches.

We may also investigate any possible breach of this code. At any time during an investigation into a non-registered provider we may issue an interim order prohibiting delivery of a service, or part of a service, by that provider. A final prohibition order may then be issued following investigation, if it is necessary to do so. Prohibition orders in force in other states and territories will be recognised in Victoria.

Following an investigation into a registered or non-registered practitioner, we may issue a public warning statement to alert people to serious risks to their health, life, safety or welfare.

    Recommended text to publish on your health service website

    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 hcc.vic.gov.au or
    • Phone 1300 582 113 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday to discuss your complaint.

    Information materials:

    We know that having a complaint about your service can be distressing.

    Research has shown higher rates of depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts for practitioners with complaints against them[1]. We aim to minimise this by dealing with complaints fairly and as quickly and informally as possible. But if you are experiencing any anxiety or distress about the process, support is available.

    The officer handling your complaint is there to guide you through each step of the process and to address any concerns you may have. Their role is to remain independent and impartial at all times.

    Support can also be sought through your medical indemnity provider, professional body or employer.

    If you want some expert support from outside your profession, contact beyondblue online or by calling 1300 224 636 any time.

    [1] T Bourne, et al - ‎2015 BMJ