Commenting on health care

You have the right to provide feedback on and complain about any aspect of your health care, and to receive a prompt response.

This section describes the importance of both positive and negative feedback. It outlines the different ways you can give feedback or make a complaint. This information is relevant whether you are treated in a public or private hospital or treatment centre, or if you see a practitioner in a private clinic.

Learn more about:

Listen to our podcast on Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

Importance of feedback

Your feedback allows you to be a part of improving health care by reinforcing what is being done well and highlighting what can be improved.

You can provide feedback in the following ways:

  • Compliments – Everyone likes a compliment when a job is done well. Positive comments show health professionals that you value their service and standard of care.
  • Suggestions – General feedback allows minor problems or inefficiencies to be addressed to make things smoother for patients. Often health professionals are so busy treating people that they overlook practical issues that are easy to solve and can improve your experience of treatment.
  • Complaints – Negative feedback is important if health care services have not met your expectations. It helps services and health professionals to identify and improve service gaps or problems in treatment, communication and behaviour.

How to give feedback or complain

All health care facilities should have procedures for patients to provide feedback. Check with the nursing unit manager, cancer care coordinator, social worker, patient representative or patient advocate.

Raising the issue may mean you get a different perspective on why something occurred, and talking about it may make you feel better. 

Health professionals are bound by a strict code of conduct to maintain confidentiality about any complaints you lodge.

If you feel unable to provide feedback or complain immediately, you can still raise your concerns at a later date. However, the ombudsman may not assess complaints after a certain time frame, and there are strict time limits for medical negligence complaints.

Steps for making a complaint

  • Talk to your specialist, a nurse or another health professional so they have the chance to resolve the issue immediately. You can also have another person, such as a friend or a relative, raise an issue on your behalf.
  • If your complaint is about a particular person and you don’t want to talk to them directly – or you have spoken to them and the issue remains unsolved – speak to the cancer care coordinator, nursing unit manager or social worker at your hospital or treatment centre.
  • You may prefer to write a letter, for example, if you find it difficult to discuss your concerns or feel the issue has been ignored after raising it in person. Remember that putting feedback in writing means you will have to wait for a response.
  • If you’re not happy with the response from a health professional, or if you want to talk to a neutral party, contact the hospital’s independent patient representative, complaints officer or patient advocate.
  • If you’re not satisfied with the patient representative’s investigation, you can elevate your complaint to the hospital’s quality assurance department, or to the clinical governance unit of your area health service. As smaller or private hospitals may not have a patient representative or a quality assurance department, you can contact the nursing unit manager or general manager.
  • If you’re still not happy with the outcome – or if you don’t want to raise the issue with the health care facility concerned – contact your state or territory’s health ombudsman.
  • If you have a serious complaint that you want to take to the health ombudsman or complaints commission, you may wish to obtain independent legal advice.

Health ombudsman

To make a formal complaint, you need to contact your state or territory health ombudsman or relevant complaints commission.

If you are unable to make the complaint yourself, then a relative, friend, guardian or health professional may be able to lodge the complaint on your behalf.

  • Complaints should be made in writing and can often be made via an online form.
  • In most cases, you will be assigned a case officer, who may provide a copy of the complaint to the health care provider and ask them to give their version of events.
  • Your case officer may also obtain your medical records or other relevant information from the health care provider, with your consent.
  • Once the case officer has completed their assessment, the ombudsman or commissioner decides how to manage your complaint. They may decide to refer it to mediation or conciliation, which is when the parties meet to try to agree to a resolution. Public health and safety issues are referred elsewhere within the ombudsman or commission’s office for formal investigation.

Serious cases against a practitioner may result in prosecution, and some cases can be referred to a registration board or another organisation.


Ombudsman or commission

Australian Capital Territory

ACT Human Rights Commission

02 6205 2222

New South Wales

Health Care Complaints Commission

1800 043 159

Northern Territory

Health and Community Services Complaints Commission

1800 004 474


Office of the Health Ombudsman

133 646

South Australia

Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner

08 8226 8666 or 1800 232 007 (toll-free country SA)


Health Complaints Commissioner Tasmania

1800 001 170


Office of the Health Services Commissioner

1300 582 113

Western Australia

Health and Disability Services Complaints Office

08 6551 7600 or 1800 813 583 (country WA free call)

Registration boards

The health professionals are required to be registered and accredited nationally through professional registration boards.

These boards are responsible for ensuring that only trained and competent health professionals practise in their profession. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) oversees the work of the registration boards – see

All registration boards have a process for handling complaints. If you have an unresolved problem with a registered health professional, you should contact the relevant registration board.

Health professionals that need to be registered

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners
  • Chinese medicine practitioners
  • Chiropractors
  • Dentists
  • GPs and specialists
  • Nurses
  • Occupational therapists
  • Optometrists
  • Osteopaths
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Radiation practitioners

Unregistered health practitioners

Allied and complementary health professions may be self-regulated. This means practitioners are not legally required to be registered, but they can choose to join a professional association that sets education and practice standards. These practitioners may be called ‘accredited’.

If you have an issue with an unregistered practitioner, talk to them first.

If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, you can lodge a complaint with their professional association (if they are a member), or with the health ombudsman or complaints commission.

Medical negligence

Health professionals have a duty to treat patients with reasonable care and skill. If you receive an injury caused by inadequate treatment or care, you may be able to claim compensation (medical negligence claim).

Inadequate treatment may include:

  • failure to diagnose or treat promptly
  • failure to advise you of risks of procedures, or injury as a result of treatment.

Medical negligence claims about cancer diagnosis and care are uncommon.

Is there a time limit to lodging a complaint?

In most states and territories, the time limit for lodging a complaint is three years from the date the injury occurred.

How do you prove negligence?

You may have to attend court, and the process can be expensive.

How do I make a medical negligence claim?

Contact the Law Society or Institute in your state or territory to find a lawyer who specialises in medical negligence.


Advocacy means speaking out on behalf of others to achieve positive change.

Cancer advocates lobby the government and key organisations to convince them to reduce cancer risks and improve services.

For more information about advocacy, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or visit

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Cancer Care and Your Rights

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit:


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit:

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit:

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2016
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment

Cancer information

What is cancer?
How cancer starts and spreads

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends