Complaint Resolution Process

Complaint Process Flow Chart 


HaDSCO aims to resolve complaints as informally as possible, and in a timely and efficient manner. Throughout the process, we will ensure:

  • Impartiality: HaDSCO is an independent Statutory Authority that does not provide legal advice to – or favour, represent or advocate for – the consumer or service provider. Rather, we will facilitate discussion between both parties about the complaint and negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome.
  • Confidentiality: All oral and written communications aimed at resolving the issues in dispute are confidential. Evidence of anything said or admitted during the resolution process is not admissible in proceedings before a court or tribunal (excluding investigations).

Individuals who wish to complain about a health, mental health or disability service (not covered by the NDIS) should lodge a complaint with HaDSCO. We can only accept complaints that have been lodged in writing.

Once you have lodged your complaint, you will receive a receipt while we assess your case. Complaints are assessed to ensure they relate to:

  • The provision of health, mental health or disability services (not covered by the NDIS).
  • Services provided in Western Australia or the Indian Ocean Territories.
  • An incident occurring in the past two years.
  • An incident which has already been raised with the service provider. Talking with the service provider first is usually the quickest and easiest way to address a concern or fix a problem.

If your complaint meets these prerequisites, we will accept it and contact you to discuss your options. Your complaint will then progress to one of the following resolution pathways: negotiated settlement, conciliation or investigation.

If your complaint does not meet these prerequisites, we will contact you to explain why the complaint has been declined and, where possible, refer you to an alternative organisation.

If your complaint is about a registered health practitioner, HaDSCO will consult with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (Ahpra) to determine the most suitable agency to manage it. Ahpra may request that we formally refer your complaint to them.

Negotiated settlement is the quickest and most effective way to resolve a complaint. It involves an exchange of information between the consumer and service provider, facilitated by HaDSCO, through calls, emails or letters. The process can only proceed if/when both the consumer and service provider agree to participate.

Throughout negotiated settlement, HaDSCO will remain impartial and encourage participation, timely communication, and complaint resolution by negotiating an outcome that is acceptable to both parties.


The Negotiated Settlement Process

  1. When a complaint is accepted into negotiated settlement, an Officer will contact the consumer and service provider separately to discuss the complaint and resolution process.
  2. A response to the complaint is sought from the service provider. This is then assessed by an Officer to ensure it addresses the consumer’s concerns.
  3. With permission from the service provider, a full or summarised version of the response is shared with the consumer for feedback.

    If the consumer is happy with the response, then negotiated settlement concludes. If the consumer is not happy with the response, then an Officer will either continue facilitating communication between both parties or determine that a resolution is not possible and conclude the process.

  4. Once negotiated settlement concludes, an Officer will document the agreed terms in a letter and provide a copy to all parties.

Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution process which involves meetings between the consumer and service provider, facilitated by HaDSCO, to address the issues and outcomes of the complaint.


The Conciliation Process

1. Invitation

Conciliation can only proceed if/when both the consumer and service provider agree to participate, and is conducted via face-to-face, teleconference or videoconference meetings. If conciliation takes place, an Officer will:

  • Organise a location, platform, date and time for the meeting.
  • Explain the conciliation ground rules.
  • Discuss and/or arrange any access or communication requirements (e.g., access to Microsoft Teams).
  • Request further information or documents relating to the complaint (if relevant).
  • Facilitate separate pre-conciliation meetings with the consumer and service provider to determine the issues and outcomes of the complaint (if relevant).
  • Advise both parties of the final meeting arrangements.


2. Discussion and agreement

During the conciliation meeting, an Officer will:

  • Encourage open discussion by asking the consumer to talk about their complaint and the service provider to respond.
  • Assist both parties to identify key issues raised in the complaint.
  • Provide independent advice.
  • Remind both parties about the confidentiality requirements.
  • Encourage both parties to discuss and reach a mutually agreeable outcome.


3. During the conciliation meeting

Both the consumer and service provider will be expected to:

  • Attend the meeting with an open mind and willingness to resolve the complaint.
  • Listen to the other party’s viewpoint and work together to reach a mutually agreeable outcome.
  • Conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner and observe the conciliation ground rules.


4. Documentation

Once an outcome has been agreed, an Officer will document the agreed terms in a report and provide a copy of the report to all parties. A signed agreement concludes the conciliation process.

To learn more about how to prepare for a conciliation meeting, click here.

Investigation is a formal process where HaDSCO reviews the service provider’s actions to determine whether unreasonable conduct has occurred.

Investigations undertaken by HaDSCO are governed by the Health and Disability Services (Complaints) Act 1995, the Disability Services Act 1993 and the Mental Health Act 2014. This legislation sets out the Director’s powers and principles for conducting investigations.


The Investigation Process and Powers of the Director

HaDSCO investigations are impartial. HaDSCO prefers to work collaboratively with relevant individuals or organisations in order to gather information. During the investigation process, the investigator may for example, conduct interviews and view documents.

The Health and Disability Services (Complaints) Act 1995, the Disability Services Act 1993 and the Mental Health Act 2014 provide the Director with powers to:

  • Summons individuals or documents.
  • Apply for a warrant to enter a premises.
  • Enter and inspect premises and take copies of any necessary documents.

Once the investigation is complete, the service provider is given the opportunity to respond to the findings and make representation to the Director.

If unreasonable conduct is identified, the Director may make recommendations for improvement. The provider must advise what measures have been undertaken to comply with the recommendations. Any recommendations made as a result of an investigation will be monitored by HaDSCO.

The legislation provides that the Director may initiate an investigation:

  • If a complaint is not suitable or cannot be resolved in the negotiated settlement or conciliation processes and warrants investigation.
  • When the Minister is of the opinion that it is in the public interest on a matter of general importance that an investigation be carried out (at the direction of the Minister for Health, Minister for Mental Health or Minister for Disability Services).


Code of Conduct Investigations

For complaints related to the Code of Conduct for certain health care workers (Code of Conduct), HaDSCO will be able to:

  • Investigate complaints about alleged Code of Conduct breaches.
  • Undertake ‘Director-initiated’ investigations into possible Code of Conduct breaches, allowing for investigations to be undertaken without a complaint being received.
  • Issue an interim prohibition order (IPO) against a health care worker to allow for an investigation into their conduct to be completed.
  • Issue a prohibition order (PO) against a health care worker at the end of an investigation where it is determined that they pose a serious risk to public health and safety.
  • If an IPO, PO or public health warning statement is issued, a health care worker has the right to apply to the State Administrative Tribunal for a review of the decision to issue the order or statement.
  • Monitor compliance with IPOs and POs and take action for breaches.
  • Publish public health warning statements when there is a risk to public health and safety.

To learn more about the Code of Conduct, click here.

HaDSCO can achieve a range of outcomes, including:

  • Access to a service.
  • A refund or waiver of fees.
  • An apology or explanation.
  • Further investigation into what happened.
  • Access to health records.
  • Service improvement to prevent issues from reoccurring (e.g., staff education and training, changes to processes and procedures, or introduction of new policies).

Once the complaint resolution process is complete, both the consumer and service provider are informed of the outcome via a letter or report. The complaint is also quality assured for reporting purposes.

Last Updated: 25/06/2024