Queensland Health Ombudsman Complaints - Step by Step Guide

The Office of the Health Ombudsman is an independent body with a structured system to handle complaints about health service providers. The system is designed to make health professionals accountable to the public and maintain confidence in the health system. 

If you are dissatisfied with a health service that either you or a family member has received, you are entitled to make a complaint. 

Lodging a complaint with the Health Ombudsman is the first step you should take if  you wish to bring a medical negligence compensation claim.

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Who can I complain about?

You can lodge a formal complaint with the Health Ombudsman about any registered or unregistered health practitioner. This includes doctors, nurses, optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, osteopaths, physiotherapists, nutritionists, massage therapists,  naturopaths, homoeopaths, dieticians, speech pathologists and social workers.

You can also make a complaint against a public or private healthcare facility, ambulance service, health education service, pharmacy, mental health service or community health service.

What can I complain about? 

You can complain about any aspect of the healthcare services that you received, including:

  • your diagnosis
  • the quality of treatment or care provided to you
  • how a provider handled your private information
  • inappropriate behaviour by a practitioner, or
  • how a practitioner dealt with your complaint.

What steps should I take before making a complaint to the Health Ombudsman?

Before lodging a formal complaint it is best to try resolving the problem directly with the health care provider. Contact them and talk about your concerns. Communicate to them clearly what you are unhappy about, what would fix the problem and what you would like to happen. You can also offer constructive ideas about how the situation could be resolved. 

Raising a matter directly with a practitioner can be the quickest and easiest way to get the result you are after. However, if it doesn’t work or you are not satisfied with the practitioner’s response, you can proceed with a formal complaint to the Health Ombudsman.

How do I make a complaint to the Health Ombudsman?

A complaint may be lodged with the Health Ombudsman in person at their Brisbane office, by Phone (133  646) or by filling out a health service complaint form and submitting it to the Health Ombudsman by:

Tips to complete the Health Service Complaint Form

1: Have key information at hand

Before you start filling out the complaint form, ensure that you have the following information in front of you:

  • contact details of the person making the complaint
  • information about the health practitioner or centre you are complaining about
  • details of the health services that you were dissatisfied with
  • supporting documentation such as medical records, diagnostic tests, images, photographs or statements
  • correspondence you have already had with the health practitioner in attempt to resolve the complaint.
  • notes on the specific result or outcome that you would like

2: Tips on describing ‘your complaint’

In the section entitled “Your complaint”, a concise description of the issue must be included. 

Be sure to include as much information as possible, including:

  • what happened
  • where it happened
  • who was involved
  • what the main issues are
  • what injury or loss you have suffered

There may be a lot of details to include. Therefore it is important that you express your ideas in a logical order, and as concisely as possible. While it may be important to include details about how the incident has affected you emotionally, try to put your feelings to one side and keep the information factual and to the point.

3: What are you seeking?

People complain for a variety of reasons and not every problem can be fixed in the same way. It is however important that you are specific when describing how you want the practitioner to resolve the issue. Do you want a refund? Or do you want them to pay you compensation for a loss? Or do you simply want them to apologise for their actions? 

If your complaint is about bad service or insensitive behaviour by a practitioner or staff member, consider whether an apology or a refund will suffice. 

If however the actions of a practitioner have caused you longterm medical issues such as pain and suffering and have resulted in you losing income, then monetary compensation may be appropriate. Roughly calculate the amount of money you are out of pocket due to the practitioner’s actions and include this estimate in your description of what you are seeking.

4: What to expect next

After you lodge your form, the Health Ombudsman will assess and investigate your complaint. This process involves gathering and analysing all of the necessary information to make a decision on your matter. They may request information or a statement from the health practitioner to get their version of events. They may also seek the opinion of an independent medical expert. 

You may be requested to provide further details or information. If you receive such a request, respond as quickly as possible. 

Generally, a decision regarding your complaint is made within 30 days. You will then be informed whether the Ombudsman will take your matter further or not. 

The Health Ombudsman may take a complaint further by:

  • facilitating a resolution between you and the practitioner
  • conciliating your complaint (helping you and the practitioner come to a resolution yourselves)
  • referring you to the health practitioner’s registration board or other medical organisation to resolve the dispute
  • formally investigating your complaint
  • taking immediate action against the practitioner

If the Health Ombudsman refuses to take further action on your complaint you will be provided with the reasons why.

Do I need a lawyer?

Regardless of whether your complaint is taken further by the Health Ombudsman or not, if you believe that a health practitioner or centre has been negligent, it is appropriate to seek legal advice. 

The Health Ombudsman cannot provide you with legal advice as to whether you have a potential negligence claim. This can only be provided by a lawyer and is essential if you want to proceed with a medical negligence action for compensation.

Next steps - get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

Last update on:
May 29, 2018
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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