The HCC can handle complaints about health services provided by any organisation or person in Victoria, including both registered and non-registered providers.
Non-registered providers are those who are not legally required to be registered under national health practitioner regulation law. They are also known as general health service 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 practitioners and are regulated under a national scheme by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Code of Conduct
The national Code of Conduct sets standards for non-registered providers, who are not regulated under the national scheme by AHPRA. It also applies to registered practitioners operating outside their area of registration, for example a physiotherapist providing reiki therapy.
The code became Victorian law on 1 February 2017. Any possible breach of this code by a non-registered provider may be grounds for a complaint to, or investigation by, the HCC.
In summary, the Code of Conduct says that general health services:
• Provide safe and ethical healthcare
• Obtain consent for treatment
• Take care to protect consumers 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 Code of Conduct and making a complaint.
• Mislead consumers about their products, services or qualifications
• Put consumers at risk due to any physical or mental health problems
• Practice under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• Make false claims about curing serious illnesses such as cancer
• Exploit consumers financially
• Have inappropriate relationships with consumers
• Discourage consumers from seeking other health care or refuse to cooperate with other practitioners if they do.
Providers must make a copy of the Code of Conduct, as well as information about how to lodge a complaint with us, easily accessible to clients. The resources below can help you with this.
Compliance with the code 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.
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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.
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. 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.