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Care Opinion and Formal Complaints


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Complaints play an important role in improving the quality and safety of care delivered by health, aged and community care service providers. Care Opinion exists to connect service users and service providers by facilitating constructive conversations about care experiences that are transparent and safe for all parties.


Consumer rights

Patients, consumers, carers and families all have rights, including the right to raise issues about the care you received. This means that making a complaint doesn't have to be a negative thing but instead, is a way to make the decision makers in an organisation know that something hasn't gone they way you feel it should. Remember, if a service provider doesn't know there is a problem, they can't do anything about it.

There are many different ways to make a complaint. You can share it on Care Opinion Australia, tell the staff looking after you, share it with the service provider's feedback team or go to a regulator or independent complaints organisation. 

You can read about your rights at:

Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights (external site)

Charter of Aged Care Rights (external site)


How is posting on Care Opinion different to making a formal complaint?

The table below summarises some of the differences between Care Opinion and making a formal complaint. 

Care OpinionFormal complaint
Informal and onlineFormal and usually on paper
Outside the organisationInside the organisation
You remain anonymousYou do not remain anonymous
Public: everyone can read itPrivate: only you and the organisation can see it
You may not get a responseYou should always get a response
Multiple organisations may respondA single organisation responds
Story/response statistics are not monitoredComplaint statistics and monitored nationally
No power to force specific outcomesMay result in a clear action plan
Focus on learning and improvementFocus on fault and accountability


Deciding where to direct your complaint

To make the decision as to where to direct your complaint, there are a few important questions to ask yourself.

  • Why do you feel it's important to share your story?
  • What outcome are you seeking?
  • What action can be taken with your story when all storytellers remain anonymous?

The below table contains some of the reasons people choose to submit a complaint. We invite you to use the information in this table to guide your decision about where to direct your complaint. 

Purpose for sharing the storyThings to consider

You want somebody to help you right now

Because Care Opinion is anonymous and we are completely independent from the service provider, we are not allowed to tell any staff member who you are and are unable to get help for you. Instead, if your complaint is about something that is happening to you right now and you are still receiving the care, it is best to talk to the staff looking after you. Remember that you can ask to speak to a senior staff member (such as a Nurse Unit Manager) at any time as part of your patient rights. 

So when it comes to sharing your story, we recommend you wait until you are back home and have had time to think about your experience and what you want to share. 

Many hospitals have a phone number you can call if you are unhappy with how you or your loved one is being looked after.

For example, in Western Australia you can call Aishwarya's Care Call. In New South Wales you can call the REACH Patient and Family Activated Escalation in certain hospitals. Click here to see which hospitals are included.

Information about escalating concerns is often available in the hospital, such as on posters or in your admission paperwork. 

Make sure people who make decisions know what is happening

Care Opinion can be a great way to have your feedback heard by the people who make decisions in health, aged and community care services.

In most cases, when a service provider partners with Care Opinion, the decision makers are automatically notified of each story that is shared about their service, helping them to be aware of what their consumers are experiencing. Often, their Board of Directors also receive notifications of the stories published. 

When a service provider has not partnered with Care Opinion, we do not have the same contacts within the service so we ourselves need to look up the contact details for their Compliments and Complaints. Your story is still published (as long as it meets our moderation principles) but we cannot guarantee the decision makers for that service will read the story. 

In many cases, regulators and local politicians have also signed up to receive notifications about stories published within their jurisdiction, including the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare and Federal Members of Parliament. They will not be able to respond to your stories but they can still read them. 

Get somebody to look into what happened to me

Often staff need to know who you are to be able to look into what happened. Because we commit to maintaining your anonymity, we can't include details like your name or patient ID number) in your story, even if you say you are comfortable with this as this is against our moderation principles. This means that the service provider usually won't be able to identify you so they will only be able to do a limited investigation instead of looking into your specific experience. In that situation, the person responding to your story will often give you the details of the person who can look into your situation.If you really want your specific experience looked into, it is often best to contact the service provider directly because you can give them your details at the beginning. If you have already tried making contact but haven't had a response, you can share your story here because there might be someone else who reads your story and can respond to it. Just keep in mind that your story will still need to meet moderation principles to be published. You can request open disclosure if you felt what happened to you was significant.
Make sure what happened to me doesn't happen to anybody elseWe know that consumers value their service and sharing a story is often an act of generosity. We are all human and sometimes things will go wrong. Sometimes (not always) the hospital will need to investigate your specific situation in order to understand where the process went wrong, so they know exactly what to fix. If that's the case, they will invite you to respond to them directly, giving you the contact details of someone to talk to about it. It is entirely your choice as to whether you want to do this. Just keep in mind that their ability to act on your feedback might be a bit limited if you don't. 

Make sure the person who I'm upset with gets in trouble

The thing that makes Care Opinion different from social media is that it is moderated to make sure everyone stays safe - both you, your loved ones and staff. It's important to remember that staff work and live in their communities so they need to be safe as well, and we treat them with the same respect that we treat you. 

If a story is a complaint, we de-identify staff members who the complaint is about. This means we replace things like names, genders and descriptions with something like the person's job title.

If you are ok with the staff member being de-identified in the moderation process, you are more than welcome to share your story on Care Opinion. If, however, you want a staff member to be publicly named, Care Opinion isn't the best place to share your story. 

I just want to express my frustrations 

We absolutely understand that sometimes, you just want somewhere you can express your frustration about what has happened and the interactions you had with staff. That's generally ok as long as the story  is constructive and meets our moderation principles. This also applies to any response you may submit to staff who respond to your story.

When we refer to a story and/or response not being constructive, we are talking about storytellers combinations of things such as swearing, name calling, unkind physical descriptions of staff, and a language and tone that could reasonably be perceived as being argumentative. 

The Care Opinion platform is a place where mutually respectful conversations about a care experiences can be held, whether the experience was positive or could have been improved. Criticism is allowed as long as it is constructive. If it is not, your story or response is not likely to meet our moderation principles.

So please keep in mind that Care Opinion is not an appropriate channel to publicise personal, and sometimes ongoing, disputes with staff.

Make sure other people know what the service is likeCare Opinion is a great place to let people know what the service has been like in your experience. As long as a story is constructive and meets our moderation principles, we can publish your story. Please note that comments recommending others to not visit a particular service will be removed from stories as per our moderation principles. 
Let people know to avoid a particular staff memberAs a moderated platform that focuses on the safety of everyone in the storytelling process, comments recommending others to not receive care or use the services of a particular staff member will be removed from stories as per our moderation principles. 
I am not happy with a response to my complaint

If you made a complaint but aren't happy with how the organisation handled it, keep in mind that you may not receive a better response on Care Opinion. The person who responded to your complaint may be the same person responding to your story on Care Opinion. 

As a not-for-profit company, we do not have the resources to continue to publish responses between the parties until a full resolution has been reached, nor do we have the capacity to play the role of a public mediator. There are cases where an author may be seeking a response that is different to the one provided by the service, however, as an independent, third-party organisation, we are unable to dictate how service providers conduct investigations and/or phrase their responses.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the investigation into your complaint, you may wish to want to contact a formal complaints organisation who can help to facilitate this. You can find your state or territory health complaints organisation at (external site).

I think a staff member's behaviour or actions are unsafe

Care Opinion is not a regulator and cannot take any action about individual registered practitioners.

As such, if you believe a health practitioner's behaviour is placing people at risk, you may wish to consider reporting your concerns to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

AHPRA takes complaints when a person has concerns about the clinical care, treatment or behaviour of a registered health practitioner in several states and territories in Australia. You can read more about this on their website at (external site).

If you are receiving an aged care service and you have a concern or complaint that you have not been able to resolve by talking with your service provider, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission) can help you to resolve your concern or complaint. You can read more about this on their website at (external site).